Local History of Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe, PA is a rather unique name for a place, but yes, it does exist. It’s actually a borough in the state of Pennsylvania. More commonly known by the older and first generation of settlers as Mauch Chunk, this borough happens to be the county seat of Carbon County. With a population of 5,000 people, the town is fondly labeled by its residents as the “Switzerland of America.” This is because it features a mountainous terrain, picturesque scenery, and old architecture. Some people also call it the “Gateway to the Poconos.”

Jim Thorpe, PennsylvaniaLocation wise, Jim Thorpe is situated exactly 55 miles away from the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton cities. As mentioned earlier, the original name is Mauch Chunk, derived from the phrase “Mawsch Unk” or bear place. It comes from the language of the native Munsee-Lenape Delaware people.

Originally established as a company town, it eventually grew on a faster pace after its mediocre first decade, thanks primarily to the railroad and coal-shipping industry. It also became the home to the lower terminus of the Summit Hill and Mauch Chunk Railroad, which by the way is considered as the first ever roller coaster in the U.S. The real purpose of this system was to feed coal to the coal barges which plied the Lehigh Canal connecting the coal mines of LC&N to Trenton, Philadelphia, New York City, and other cities in the New Jersey and Delaware areas.

Now if you’re wondering where the town got its new name, then you’re in for a rather weird answer…

There was this famous American athlete and Olympic medalist in the name of Jim Thorpe. After he died in 1953, his widow, Patricia became upset and quite angry when the government of Oklahoma declined to build a memorial to honor her husband. So when she heard about the borough of Mauch Chunk, which was trying desperately to attract and lure in businesses and investments, she quickly grabbed the opportunity and dealt with the officials. Eventually, two boroughs merged, East Mauch Chunk and Mauch Chunk, and you’ve guessed it! The name became Jim Thorpe; in honor of the athlete. His remains were then transferred to the newly created municipality and a monument was erected. Today, the site has his tomb, two statues, and historical markers detailing his life.

Meanwhile, the borough is also quite rich in historic architecture. The wide array of 19th century architecture is highlighted by styles such as Greek revival, Federalist, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Romanesque revival, and Richardsonian Romanesque.

Today, Jim Thorpe is a manifestation of an economically stable and prosperous community. Although it isn’t as populated or industrialized as other cities in Pennsylvania, it is still a hotspot for tourism for the state, owing to its proximity to the Poconos as well as the local attractions and natural sights. There are several local events and places to see in this town and there are even new industries as well as modern structures being constructed. And finally, a visit to Jim Thorpe should warrant a look at their rich railroad and railway stories.