A rare glimpse into the homes, mansions and shops in the Old Mauch Chunk Historic District of Jim Thorpe is the focus of the Jim Thorpe Historic Victorian House Tour on Sunday, Sept. 25 from noon to 5 p.m.
The tour opens 19 private properties to visitors. Volunteers will be available at each home to direct a self-guided tour and discuss the building's history, architecture and interior design.
The houses open for the 2011 Victorian House Tour, the first in three years, are: Mauch Chunk Opera House, DeFeo Manor B&B, Marion Hose Company, Gilded Cupid B&B, Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center, St. Mark's Church, Homespun, Three Mountains Gallery, Harry Packer Mansion, Kemmerer Carriage House, Inn at Jim Thorpe, Dimmick Memorial Library, Friends House Annex of the Dimmick Memorial Library, Stevenson House, Rendon House, Walbert House, Monteleone Design, and Gallery b.
The houses date from the first stone homes built for Lehigh Coal & Navigation families in 1822 to the mansions of the post-Civil War railroad boom which ended in 1890. This time period closely paralleled the 63-year reign of British Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. By the turn of the century, many children of the wealthy Mauch Chunk families had left the area, some going south to Bethlehem, where the Lehigh Valley Railroad had relocated.
"Visitors will see Victorian-era houses, most of which are normally closed to the public," explained Jack Sterling, coordinator of the event and chairman of the Mauch Chunk Historical Society's Historical Committee and a board member of the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center.
Sterling noted that three houses on the 2011 House Tour are open for the first time. These are: the Gallery b which is the oldest house in Jim Thorpe, the Kemmerer Carriage House, and the Harry Packer Mansion one of the most visually striking buildings in the town. The tour will included the Marion Hose building the home of the earliest fire fighting company and the future home of an audio studio and manufacturing company.
The Kemmerer Carriage House is the last remaining building at Kemmerer Park, formerly the estate of coal magnate Mahlon S. Kemmerer. The carriage house is being restored by John Drury of the Mauch Chunk Museum. Gallery b was the first of a row of seven stone row buildings on Broadway that were built for the families of Lehigh Coal & Navigation workers. The Harry Packer Mansion is a bed and breakfast that features murder mystery weekends.
Sterling said that house tours in previous years drew about 500 visitors. He advises people to buy tickets in advance, which are offered at a reduced rate, and to arrive early if they wish to visit all the properties which could take several hours. The event will be held rain or shine.
Sterling thanked Abby Beerman, a college student who organized the house tour as a summer intern at the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.
Information and tickets are available online at: www.jimthorpevictorianhousetour.org . Tickets are also available at the Mauch Chunk Opera House during performances, DeFeo's Manor, across from the opera house; Carrigan's Country Pharmacy, Albrightsville; and at the Mauch Chunk Museum; Dimmick Memorial, Lehighton Memorial and Palmerton Area libraries.
On the day of the event, tickets are to be exchanged at either the Dimmick Memorial Library or the Mauch Chunk Opera House for a 40-page map and information guide for the tour.