Jim Thorpe history tour comes to video
For several years, visitors interested in the Historic District of Jim Thorpe have taken Bill Allison's Old Mauch Chunk History Tour.
"I reached a point where I felt that I didn't want to give the walking tour anymore," Allison said, "so I decided to film it."
After many months of production, the video, Jim Thorpe --The Old Mauch Chunk History Tour, is being released.
"This is the filming of a walking tour that I have been giving for the last four or five years, Allison said. "I wrote a script back then, And since then, I developed a number of stories to illustrate the many personalities that lived in Jim Thorpe during the Victorian era."
Allison's 90-minute DVD tour encompasses the borough's Historic District from the time of its founding in the early 1800s until 1900, a period that roughly parallels the reign of Queen Victoria, hence the Victorian Era.
"Victorian culture reflected three principles: the exploitation of nature, the building the community, and the gospel of wealth," Allison said.
As an example, he turns to Asa Packer, who exploited nature by cutting through mountains to expand his railroad, founded Lehigh University to allow young men to enter the engineering community, and endowed the university so that it would have free tuition.
The tour begins at the Lehigh River, then cuts to an overlook of Jim Thorpe from the summit of Flagstaff Mountain.
"From there, I talk about how the Industrial Revolution affected the environment around the town, and what the town would've looked like during that period," Allison said. "Today the town is pristine and the river runs wild through it. By 1900, the woods had been cut, the river had been dammed, and canals and railroads ran along its shores."
Allison, a member of the boards of the Mauch Chunk Historical Society, the Mauch Chunk Museum, and the Jim Thorpe Area School District, moved to Penn Forest Township after retiring as a Philadelphia principal.
A former history teacher, he learned about the history of Victorian Mauch Chunk from local historians John Drury and Jack Sterling, who he credits with reviewing the original Walking Tour script.
As a youngster with undiagnosed ADD, he struggled in school, but when and to receive a bachelors degree in history, a Masters degree in special education, and a principal certificate.
He taught history to learning-disabled students at a Philadelphia high school before becoming a principal. He served as a principal for 13 years before retiring from the Philadelphia school system in 2002. In 1996, he was voted Philadelphia's Principal of the Year.
Last year, when WVIA produced the Our Town Jim Thorpe documentary, Allison was interviewed by videographer John Troxell.
"I asked him if he would be interested in videotaping the Mauch Chunk History Tour," Allison said. "Not only did he agree, but he said he had access to many archival still photographs that could help to illustrate the story."
Their principal filming took place in October 2012 against the autumnal colors of Jim Thorpe's fall foliage.
For information, see jimthorpehistorytour.com or see the Jim Thorpe History Tour on Facebook. On Sunday, Sept. 29, a reception will be held at the Mauch Chunk Opera House for the premier showing of the Old Mauch Chunk History Tour video.