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A love of preservation

  • MICHAEL NEWTON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS John Drury stands in front of a restored wall of the carriage house.
    MICHAEL NEWTON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS John Drury stands in front of a restored wall of the carriage house.
Published August 07. 2010 09:00AM

John Drury is an important local figure in Jim Thorpe. Originally from Philadelphia, Drury has lived in John Stone since 1991. In 1988, Drury purchased two buildings in the town and transformed them into the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center and the Inn at Jim Thorpe. In addition, he has purchased and restored many old buildings in Philadelphia and along the New Jersey shore.

"The culture and history of an era and a place just intrigues me," said Drury in an attempt to describe why he spends so much time restoring buildings, "I don't know why, I just hate to see anything old destroyed."

Drury, who spent his career as an in-home physical therapist, sees a connection between his work and his passion for preservation. "My background is 50 years as a physical therapist. As a part of my work doing home care I traveled through all the patch towns in this area and saw people who worked in mines and took oral histories. To me, that's all a part of rehabilitation, rehabilitation of people, rehabilitation of buildings."

Jim Thorpe intrigues Drury, because he sees it as a place where the rehabilitation of old buildings plays an important part of the local economy. "I love to do preservation and do it for its own sake, but in this town there is also the added factor of preservation drawing in people."

Preservation of buildings becomes a way to create more attractions. This is so important to Jim Thorpe, because in Drury's words, "like it or not the industry of the town is tourism." He acknowledges that this is unpopular among some residents. However, there is no other viable alternative at this time and so the matter becomes a question of how to best manage the tourist industry. "Preservation creates attractions that brings a good kind of people to the town, people who care about the town and want to learn about it."

Some of the main problems people have with tourism are the rise in property values and traffic problems. "These are very legitimate concerns," said Drury. "People have been priced out of their own neighborhoods, and people can't drive because of all the congestion. Also some people don't like a bunch of outsiders swarming the downtown."

In Drury's view, the tourist entrepreneurs are not in competition with those who don't like tourism. "We need to work together. As time goes on, more and more people are starting to see the value of visitation."

For Drury, preservation plays a key role in the development of responsible tourism in the town. "Those buildings create a huge value for the town. But many historic buildings are in poor condition and need lots of work. It requires forward thinking people to recognize the potential of those buildings."

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