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Borough of Jim Thorpe
Country United States United States
State Pennsylvania Pennsylvania
County Carbon
Elevation 1,519 ft (463 m)
Coordinates 40°52′23″N 75°44′11″W / 40.87306°N 75.73639°W / 40.87306; -75.73639
Area 14.8 sq mi (38.3 km2)
 - land 14.5 sq mi (38 km2)
 - water 0.3 sq mi (1 km2), 2.03%
Population 4,804 (2000)
Density 332.1 /sq mi (128.2 /km2)
Founded 1818
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Code 18229
Area code 570
Location of Jim Thorpe in Carbon County
Location of Jim Thorpe in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States

Jim Thorpe is a borough in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, USA. The population was 4,804 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Carbon County.[1] The town has been called the "Switzerland of America" due to the picturesque scenery, mountainous location, and architecture; as well as the "Gateway to the Poconos."



View of Mauch Chunk in 1869

The name Mauch Chunk (pronounced /ˌmɔːk ˈtʃʌŋk/), was dervied from the phrase "sleeping bear" in the language of the native Lenape people. [missing text] described from the local Bear Mountain which resembled a sleeping bear, was later founded in 1818 by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. It rapidly became a railroad and coal-shipping center, and was home to the Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad, generally acknowledged as the first roller coaster in the United States. The city was the location of the trial of the Molly Maguires in 1876, which resulted in the hanging of four men found guilty of murder.[2] The population in 1900 was 4,020; in 1910, it was 3,952.[3]

Following the 1953 death of renowned athlete and Olympic medal winner Jim Thorpe, the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and adopted the name of Jim Thorpe in hopes of attracting attention and tourism to bolster the local post-industrial economy. The township bought the athlete's remains from his third wife and erected a monument to the Oklahoma native, who began his sports career as a student in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (2 hours southwest, near Harrisburg).

1915 postcard showing a bird's eye view of the community

The history of the borough is inscribed in the architecture that makes up its many 19th century styles. Former resident and architectural historian Hans Egli noted the vast range of architectural styles: Federalist, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque. Most of these architectural examples remained intact beneath aluminum or vinyl siding that has since been removed.

Robert Venturi, renowned Philadelphia architect, conducted a little-known planning study in the 1970s that attempted to understand the dynamics of historicism and tourism, notions that have come into their own in contemporary times. While Venturi's planning study was unique at the time, it has since become a critical factor in Jim Thorpe's rebound as a functioning and economically stable community.[4] Jim Thorpe benefits from tourism initially spurred on by the celebration of its old architecture, which has developed new industries and modern creations. Two of these relative newcomers to the Jim Thorpe area are paintball and white water rafting.[citation needed]

Mauch Chunk Switchback Gravity Railroad

In 1827, a mining company in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania, constructed a 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) downhill track, known as a gravity railroad, to deliver coal (and a miner to operate the mine train's brake) to the Lehigh Canal in Mauch Chunk. This helped open up the area to commerce. By the 1850s, the "Gravity Road" (as it became known) was providing rides to thrillseekers for 50 cents a ride. This is often designated as the first roller coaster in the United States. The Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation was formed to study the feasibility of preserving and interpreting the remains of the Switchback Gravity Railroad on top of Mount Pisgah.[5]


Jim Thorpe is located at 40°52′23″N 75°44′11″W / 40.87306°N 75.73639°W / 40.87306; -75.73639.[6]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 14.8 square miles (38.3 km²), of which, 14.5 square miles (37.5 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) of it (2.03%) is water. Located adjacent to the Lehigh River, Jim Thorpe is 3 miles north of Lehighton and 3 miles east of Nesquehoning. Jim Thorpe's elevation is at 1519 feet above sea level.[7]


US 209.svg
Although signed as a north-south route, U.S. 209 tends to follow an east-west route in Pennsylvania. In Jim Thorpe and Lehighton, U.S. 209 runs in directions opposite its signage -- i.e., northbound U.S. 209 runs southbound and vice versa.
PA 903 has its southern terminus at U.S. 209 in Jim Thorpe. It is a north-south route that runs northeast of town.
  • Northern terminus 17 miles (27 km) northeast of town at PA 115 near the Pocono Raceway. (PA 115 intersects Interstate 80 about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of its junction with PA 903.)
  • Intersects PA 534 in Penn Forest Twp., about 12.5 miles (20 km) northeast of town.
  • Crosses Interstate 476 but has no interchange with that route.


As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 4,804 people, 1,967 households, and 1,335 families residing in the borough. The population density was 332.1 people per square mile (128.2/km²). There were 2,193 housing units at an average density of 151.6/sq mi (58.5/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.36% White, 0.62% African American, 0.04% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.04% from other races, and 0.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.83% of the population. A plurality of Jim Thorpe's residents are of Irish descent, typified by the connection to the Molly Maguires and large amount of Irish pride seen throughout the town (e.g. flags).

There were 1,967 households of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18, 50.6% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.1% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the borough the population was spread out with 21.0% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 17.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $35,976, and the median income for a family was $43,710. Males had a median income of $31,141 versus $23,490 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $17,119. About 7.8% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.3% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.


Harry Packer Mansion

In a poll conducted by Budget Travel magazine, Jim Thorpe was recently awarded a top 10 spot on America’s Coolest Small Towns, Circa 2009. The town registered 3,920 votes to land the #7 spot on the list. Jim Thorpe is becoming a tourist destination, with many businesses catering to white water rafting, mountain biking, paintball and hiking. Along with these sports, Jim Thorpe is popular among railroading fans and is known for its extraordinary architecture.

The town is home to the Asa Packer and Harry Packer Mansions. The former was the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University; the latter was Asa's son. Both mansions sit next to one another on a hill overlooking downtown Jim Thorpe. The Asa Packer Mansion is a museum and has been conducting tours since Memorial Day of 1956. The Harry Packer Mansion is a bed and breakfast.

Jim Thorpe is home to the Anthracite Triathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon open to amateur and professional triathletes. The swim portion occurs in Mauch Chunk Lake. The bike course takes riders through the mining towns of Summit Hill, Nesquehoning, Lansford and Jim Thorpe. The running portion of the course is generally along the former alignment of a historic switchback railroad.[9]



External links



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