By John Drury
Special to The Current
One very special event for this Bicentennial Year is the Victorian House Tour scheduled for Sunday September 16th from 12 noon to 4:00pm. Ticket prices are; pre-registration $17 dollars per person, day of event registration $20 per person. We are most interested in having our Carbon County residents, especially those who have not yet experienced the town’s Victorian grandeur, its homes, and special places, avail themselves of this opportunity. Consequently we are offering a discount of $5 off the ticket price for Carbon County residences.
“The Ticket” will actually be a special booklet containing necessary information about the operation, i.e. a map locating participating homes and a short history of the home. The booklet also contains articles by town historians regarding the beginning history of the town, a summary of the lives and contributions of the two most prominent men in the town’s 18th century. Additionally, the fascinating story of the challenges in the early transportation of coal to the market place is presented. The booklet will become a collector’s item.
The Who and Where
The homes and special places on our tour are a unique and eclectic group. You will be impressed, amazed, and pleased at the sites you encounter. The listing below is in no particular order:
At DeFeo’s Manor at 5 West Broadway you will meet Ellen DeFeo who after many years continues to operate her bed and breakfast in this imposing Queen Ann style home from the High Victorian era with its stunning array of turrets, porches and balconies.
Down the Rabbit Hole and Galerie b
At 108 Broadway, the home and business owned by Steve and Carol-Ann Berry, you will see one of the original homes built by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. It is very simply adored in contrast to most of the other properties viewed in the remainder of the town.
Central RR of New Jersey Depot and the Josiah White Park
Your first stop undoubtedly will be the Central NJ RR depot and the Josiah White Park. The Depot serves as the center of operations for the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau and the first place that town visitors look for information. It is where you will pick up or purchase your tour book and ticket for this event.
Harry Packer Mansion
The Harry Packer Mansion at 19 Packer Hill has been owned and operated by Bob and Pat Handwerk for more than 40 years. It is a Gothic style High Victorian home built by Asa Packer whose mansion is located right next door. It was built between 1871 and 1874 and used as inspiration for the Haunted Mansion ride in Disney Land. The Mansion will be available for the home tour patrons from 1 to 4.
Asa Packer Mansion
The Asa Packer Mansion owned by the Borough of Jim Thorpe and operated by the JT Lions Club and is of national historic significance. Between 15 and 20 thousand visitors a year are educated and entertained by tour guides, some of whom have been on the staff more than 30 years. The Director for the first time in our house tour history is opening the mansion’s 1st floor after 4pm for short tours for the benefit of our house tour patrons.
Kemmerer Carriage House
Across Packer Hill Road from the Harry Packer Mansion and down a small lane in Kemmerer Park is seen the Kemmerer Carriage House. It represents the last standing edifice on the right side of Packer Hill that contained the homes of the founders, and movers and shakers of early Mauch Chunk. Their backgrounds and histories are contained in a small library within the restored Carriage House. The recent 5 year restoration effort was completed by the Mauch Chunk Museum, the Kemmerer Memorial Park Association and the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
This church on Race Street is owned by the Congregation of St. Marks Church. The tour director, John Horvath, gives a wonderful tour of this historic church constructed in 1867. It features Tiffany stained glass windows and one of the first Otis elevators, installed in 1912, and used yet today.
Race Street Garden
This small “vest pocket” garden although not part of Victorian history fits well with the atmosphere along historic Race Street. It is a pleasant place to enjoy the benches and plantings and soak up the old world atmosphere of Race Street as well of the history of Old Mauch Chunk.
The Inn at Jim Thorpe
The Inn at Jim Thorpe at 21 Broadway was originally named the White Swan Hotel, later the American Hotel and now the Inn at Jim Thorpe since 1988 when purchased by The Drury Partnership. It has been managed for the past 25 years by David Drury. Broadway Grill is part of the Hotel’s operation. The Hotel today has earned a 5 stars review and offers 47 elegant guest rooms and suites. Be impressed by viewing the hotel lobby, restaurant, a few guest rooms, and a view from the 2nd floor balcony.
The Drury House known earlier as the Blakeslee house was built in the late 1840s. It is an Italianate style home and is the town’s oldest surviving mansion. The Drury residence is on the first floor and the other two floors contain hotel rooms and suites. Enjoy your stop during the tour where you’re invited in for a touch of wine, song with live music hosted by Victorian clad town folk.
Dimmick Memorial Library
Located at 54 Broadway this library was built by the benevolence of civil engineer, Milton Dimmick, who lived from 1848 to 1884. It was a major beneficiary of the will of Mary Packer Cummings, daughter of Asa Packer. In 1979 a fire destroyed the building but reconstruction allowed for the modernization and expansion of the original building while retaining Victorian features and charm. The library today provides all the services of a typical modern library while at the same time surviving as the county’s main research library for history and genealogy.
Hosts and owners are Bob Stevenson and Mary Mulligan. This stately home sits in the main part of Millionaires Row on Broadway. It was converted form apartments to a single family home by Dr. Thomas and his wife Laura in the 1960’s. It is beautifully maintained by the current owners who always offer their residence for viewing house tour events.
Formally known as the Butler Homestead, the current owners are Ben and Carol Walbert. This stately, elegant brick Italianate Victorian home has a strong colonial flair. It has undergone a beautiful authentic restoration by architect Ben Walbert, recognized for his historic restoration work throughout the Lehigh Valley. Carol Walbert, a local attorney and Ben have opened their charming home for many events over the years.
Suites on Broadway
Marianne and Darryl Monteleone host their bed and breakfast and design business at this beautifully restored property. It has retained its Victorian style and details. Check out this lovely property with efficient use of space.
Mauch Chunk Opera House
This spectacular entertainment center is owned and operated by the Mauch Chunk Historical Society. It was constructed in 1881 as a combination concert hall/market house and town hall. Over the years it was part of the old Vaudeville Circuit, then became a movie theater, then a warehouse and then after being purchased by the Mauch Chunk Historical Society was renovated. The building is now a the comfortable and acoustically superior Opera House concert hall.
The Gilded Cupid Bed and Breakfast
Formally the David Pearsall house now owned and operated by Sheila O’Neal and Bob Ewashko. Built in the 1850’s, it eventually became the home of Mary Packer Cummings Daughter of Asa Packer. Since 1995 Sheila and Bob have begun the long process of returning the house to its Victorian mansion finery and making it into one of the town’s most popular bed and breakfasts. The residence features some internal design modifications that are interesting and dramatic.
Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center
This earliest formal church in town, a Methodist/Episcopal Church, was built in 1843. In 1870 a 3 story brick building was constructed over the foundation of the earlier church. Church services were held from March 1874 until 1976. It was then stripped and gutted and sat vacant for years almost meeting the wrecking ball. In 1988 it was purchased by John Drury and with the help of Laura Thomas and Joan Gilbert the first floor was converted into a museum. The spacious elegant ballroom was created on the second floor.
This house, in a beautiful Queen Ann style, was purchased in the 1970s by the Immaculate Conception Church and became a convent for nuns who were teachers at the Parish school. It was sold in the 1990’s; the new owners enhanced the Victorian styling. They also created beautiful spaces in the patio area and terraces on the hillside to the rear of the house. The dramatic interior structural design change makes this property a must-see on the tour.
The two buildings that are part of this property were purchased by John Drury in 2002. One, the former Schatz Bakery, the other a two story home which sat back from the street allowed for a lovely garden in front. The combination properties were updated and renovated into a 12 unit bed and breakfast. The most significant and unusual feature is a stairway from the rear of the property to Hill Road. If you have decent balance, endurance and strength, the stairway offers multiply vistas of the town for viewing and photographing.
The Parsonage Bed and Breakfast
Owned and operated by Jeffri Coleman and Michael Rivkin at 61 West Broadway. Built in 1837, it is a classic example of a 5-Bay, 3 story home, with a dormered gable. The newest very special addition to the tour, the parsonage is a welcoming respite for visitors, and houses a 40 year collection of art and antiques – including historic Mauch Chunk memorabilia – also making it a museum in its own right. Outdoor garden terraces and a gazebo complement the property and add to its charm.
John Drury is Founder and President of The Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center www.mauchchunkmcc.org