The porch of the Asa Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe was filled with dignitaries, staff, and visitors last Friday as "Remembrance Day" was held celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mary Packer Cumming's gift of her family's home to the Borough of Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe.
Asa Packer was the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad; the founder of Lehigh University; a U.S. Congressman; a Judge; and philanthropist, etc.
The Asa Packer Mansion was built in 1861 by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan and was constructed over a span of two years and cost of a total of $14,000.
Commonly known as an Italianate Villa, the Mansion consists of three stories, 18 rooms, and approximately 11,000 sq. feet. of living space.
Asa Packer Mansion Remembrance Day speakers included : Ronald J Sheehan Executive Director; James Trainer President Jim Thorpe Lions Club; Elizabeth Ahner, President Jim Thorpe Borough Council; Mayor Michael J Sofranko; Carbon County Board of Commissioners; Sen. John T Yudichak; Rep. Doyle Heffley; and Ava M Bretzik Director and Historian.
In reflecting on this anniversary, the Mansion Museum's Executive Director Sheehan noted "we celebrate and remember the generosity of Mary Packer Cummings and the Packer family for all they have done for their fellow man, and in particular the gift of the Asa Packer Mansion to the Borough of Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe upon Mary's death 100 years ago.'
"Mary had nieces, nephews, cousins, a secretary, and household staff that she could have left the home to."
"She could have given or sold the furnishings or she could have sold the home and contents and increased the other charitable bequest she left it in her will."
"She could have given the home to Lehigh University or she could have just given it to the borough to do with it whatever they saw fit to do but she did none of these things."
"Mary specifically willed the 18 room mansion and all of its contents to the Borough of Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe to be used as a public park in memory of her father."
"She also left a sum of $60,000 for the maintenance and upkeep of the mansion and grounds."
"She realized that her family's story was a part of American History and she understood that people would travel to Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe for a chance to see how the Packer family worked, worshiped, and lived."
"Mary knew this community would be the perfect caretakers in preserving this piece of history and the Packer history."
"Think now of the foresight of the Bear Mountain Lions Club members (now the Jim Thorpe Lions Club) in asking for the responsibility of trusteeship of this home in 1954."
"The club, only being six years in existence at the time with a membership of approximately 43 local men, took on the task of two years of cleaning and repair and planning how to set up a tourist destination in an economically depressed borough that saw its golden age of coal and railroads and millionaire families all dry up and disappear."
"Through their hard work and dedication, the home opened to the public on Memorial Day, 1956 and has told the history of the Packer family ever since."
"In 1985 the Mansion was given National Historic Landmark status."
Sheehan finished by saying "the borough has fulfilled Mary's wish for the first 100 years of her family home and I am confident that her home and dream will endure for another 100 years."
James Trainer President of the Jim Thorpe Lions Club said " the Jim Thorpe Lions Club is very proud of their performance over the last 58 years as Trustees of the Asa Packer Mansion."
"Our care and actions over the years kept the home from serious disrepair; educated the public on local and national history, and insured that the legacy of the Packer family will be remembered for years to come."
"The Lions Club wishes to acknowledge and thank Lion Ron Sheehan Executive Director, Ava Bretzik Director and Historian, and the staff of the Asa Packer Mansion for all the time and hard work they do on behalf of the Mansion."
Senator Yudichak noted "this is a very special occasion, the centennial of the public ownership of the Asa Packer Mansion, an iconic building in Jim Thorpe and Carbon County and a real important part of our tourism economy here in Northeastern Pennsylvania."
"We appreciate what the Jim Thorpe Borough and the Jim Thorpe Lions Club have done over the years to keep this building in the public trust."
"It is so important to tell the history of Carbon County and Northeastern Pennsylvania."
"I was glad to bring a Senate citation here to honor the Museum, the Jim Thorpe Borough, and the Jim Thorpe Lions Club and the remarkable job that they have done over the past 100 years."
Rep. Doyle Heffley said "this is a historic day for Carbon County."
"People associate the Mansion with Jim Thorpe tourism and 20,000 people touring the Mansion yearly says a lot for the community."
Museum Director and Historian Ava M Bretzik said "it was a wonderful day today, we had a great turnout and I am so happy that our 100th Centennial Celebration went so well."
Letters and resolutions were received from Mayor Michael Sofranko; the Borough Council of the Borough of Jim Thorpe; the Jim Thorpe Police Department; Carbon County Board of Commissioners; President Judge Roger Nanovic; the Trustees of Marion Hose Company #1; the Robert Packer Hospital; Department of the Treasury; the Episcopal parish of St. Marks and St. John; All Saints Episcopal Church of Lehighton; Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce; the Mauch Chunk Museum; Mauch Chunk Historical Society; Dimmick Memorial Library; County of Carbon Department of Veterans Affairs; Mauch Chunk Cemetery Association; Sayre Historical Society; Governor Tom Corbett; Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley; Senator John Yudichak; Representative Doyle Heffley; and The Church of the Redeemer.
A time capsule will be buried on the Mansion grounds to be opened on November 3, 2112 contained a copy of the will of Mary Packer Cummings; Borough Minutes appointing the Lions Club as Trustees of the Asa Packer Mansion; a copy of current Trusteeship agreement; a copy of most recent mansion report; a current Mansion brochure and ticket; gift shop items and postcards of the Mansion; CD copy of 1998 Victorian Ball held at the Mansion; notes from the Mansion management and staff; photographs of Mansion Staff and Jim Thorpe Lions Club; 100th Remembrance Ceremony Program; 100th Anniversary Commemorative Plate; and a greetings letter to the opener of the time capsule in 2112.