At the height of Jim Thorpe's prosperity, the front hill of the town looked much different then it does now. The hill, which leads from the Asa Packer Mansion down to the back of the Carbon County Courthouse and Rt. 209, was the site of many of town's wealthiest inhabitants.
The most notable structures on this hill were the home of John Leisenring, a manager of the L.C.N.C and a mansion, completed in 1879, which Leisenring built for his daughter, Annie, and her husband Mahlon Kemmerer. Today all that remains of these buildings and that time, is the Kemmerer carriage house, located at the end of Kemmerer Park.
During the days of its use, the carriage house was a handsome structure, with dormers, turrets, large wooden doors and a caretaker's house in back. After Mahlon and Annie moved away, the land fell into disuse. The mansion was dismantled in 1927. The park's basketball court is actually the footprint of that building.
The carriage house deteriorated. The caretaker's house fell down. The roof caved in. Teenagers defaced the inside. The situation got so bad that the Jim Thorpe Borough Council was ready to destroy the building.
At that point John Drury and the Kemmerer Memorial Park Association stepped in to try and save the building. Now two years have passed, money has been raised, plans have been started, and the building is on its way to recovery.
"We really tried to involve the community in the restoration efforts," said Drury. "We've had the Boy Scouts, members of the High School Honor Society and History Club, even prisoners from the local jail all come out and put in time working."
And there was much to be done. Years of neglect had left the inside of the building a shambles and the roof had to be totally replaced. "We ended up with eight full truckloads of debris," said Drury.
In addition to cleaning the debris, a new roof was put on; walls and floors were rebuilt. "It's been a lot of work," said Drury, "and we're very proud of what the community has done."
The project has been done with an eye towards recreating the building as it was. Towards that end, a set of dormer windows, which were removed from the building 100 years ago, have been recreated."
In order to make the building functional, some interior changes diverging from the original architecture have been made. "We moved the staircase to create more open space on the first floor, and we changed the ceiling in one upstairs room because it was so low before that there was no headspace," said Drury, "we want to have the building be functional."
Originally, the building housed horses and a carriage. It is not clear at this time what exactly the building will be used for when it is finished.