What will the Kemmerer House become?
Much work has been done on the Kemmerer carriage house, and the building is beginning to resemble the proud image seen in old photographs. However, the Kemmerer Memorial Park Association, which is overseeing the project, has not come to a final conclusion about how to use the building. Until this decision has been made, work on the project is at a standstill.
All the construction done so far has dealt with the basic task of bringing the building back from the brink of ruin. The roof needed to be rebuilt and many sagging floors and fallen down walls had to be replaced. Now that these tasks are done, the construction process will become more specific.
"We're at the stage now where the next step in the project is putting in the electric," said John Drury, who has been a key player in the project. He explained why construction couldn't continue, "we can't put the electric in until we know what our needs in that area will be."
Decisions about the future use of the building involve the factor of economic sustainability. "We have to find a way to make this building make money, otherwise the project will become a white elephant," said Drury.
The development of Kemmerer Park is another important factor. "This park is underutilized right now, in a year and a half of being here working on the building, we hardly saw any people using the park. We'd like to find a way to help encourage people to spend more time in the park."
Developing the carriage house and the park will provide a way to positively impact how people move through town. Currently, there are no satisfactory ways to walk between the downtown section of Jim Thorpe and the neighborhood at the top of the hill, called the Heights.
Because the carriage house and park are in between these two neighborhoods, developing them will provide more walking choices for residents. "When the paths are cleaned up people will be able to use them more as a way to get around," said Drury, "also, there is an old trail up the front of the hill from the Molly Maguire's restaurant that we would like to get back in service. It would be a nice, alternative way for people to come up the hill from the downtown."
There is a variety of proposed uses for the carriage house. Some members of the Kemmerer Park Association would like to see it kept in its current state so it could be used by the Boy Scouts as a place to camp or hold programs in the summer.
Other members think that some of the space should be converted into bed and breakfast rooms. "If we had two rooms upstairs where people could spend the night, that would help this building to pay for itself," said Drury.
There is also the possibility of turning a portion of the building into a mini-museum that would display the history of the hill and those who lived on it. "In terms of visitors, it could be another attraction that brings them to the town," said Drury.
There is a consensus among members of the Park Association that a portion of the building could be turned into a caretakers apartment. "The caretaker and his wife could live there for free and he would do maintenance and lawn care and she could clean the guest rooms," said Drury.
Drury acknowledged that all these plans are speculative. "We haven't come to a final decision and we won't be able to move forward until we do. There are a lot of things to consider."