Saturday, May 3, 2014

Monet Still-life in Real-life: Springtime comes to Kemmerer Park

Considering what Kemmerer Park once was, taking in its beauty today makes the progress there even more commendable.

Click here for a post here at CultureCarbonCounty for a story and more pictures of the renovation efforts here in the past few years.
Kemmerer Park has had its ups and downs.  Here it is, May 2, 2014, at near peak perfection.
Here is a view looking down to the river from the "chutes" from the
Switchback.  Even on clear days, Victorians in their finest cloths
traveling from Mauch Chunk to the East Side needed to pass beneath
this menagerie, getting drippings of coal soot on them.

A river view looking toward the north end of the property
before Kemmerer built his mansion.  You can see people traveling
by horseback on the road with the chutes passing overhead.
Many Victorians of the day complained of the filth that would drop
on them as they passed beneath.

From the late 1840s until the Hauto Railroad Tunnel was completed in 1872, what is today the park was at one time a dusty, noisy cog in the anthracite supply chain from mine to river.  The Switchback Gravity Railroad deposited car after car of coal here onto a chute system that took the coal from a platform from a 200 foot terrace above the river.  Here is where countless tons of coal were deposited into the Lehigh.

But the tunnel allowed direct rail access into the coal fields and circumvented the necessity of this wharf. In that year, a contemporary industrialist of Asa Packer, by the name of Mahlon S. Kemmerer took ownership of the property and built a fine mansion there (roughly where the basketball court is today, where the overarching coal chutes once passed over).

Mahlon had married Annie Leisenring, the daughter of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Companay superintendent John Leisenring.  The Leisenrings and Kemmerers became two prominent families in the later part of the boom to strike Jim Thorpe.  They amassed enough wealth for their future generations to enjoy and still profit from today.
Add caption

One of the flower urns as it looks today.
Urns from the Kemmerer estate of a slightly different variety.
However Mahlon could never quite escape the business shadow of the Packers, and so he struck out to Wyoming to see what mineral development he could establish there near Jackson Hole.  The move was a successful one, so much so that the town of Kemmerer Wyoming was established in his honor.

Here is what it looked like just a few years ago.  The park wasn't even this
nice just five years ago.  And now that it has reached a modern zenith, it
is hoped that its new beauty is here to stay.
The Kemmerers though kept their mansion on this hillside for many years.  And for many of those years, the contents of antiques and personal items remained there intact and untouched by the family.  Perhaps one day they hoped they would return and so they kept the house open for them.  But it eventually fell to disrepair and was torn down.  The property was given to the town of Jim Thorpe and it became a park.

However in the 1970s and 1980s it fell to great disrepair and there was talk of closing it down.  Lately, revitalization efforts have centered around the restoration of the Kemmerer Carriage.  It was in great disrepair, its roof was caving in.  Through the efforts of the park committee and especially from John Drury's efforts of securing grants from the Kemmerer Family Foundation, the carriage house renovations have completed enough to allow for a full-time live-in caretaker there.

Maintenance of the pathways and over-growing foliage over the years fell to the volunteer efforts of Bob Handwerk.  He and his family have owned the Harry Packer Mansion for quite some time now.

Enjoying a living moment, in this real-life Impressionistic painting is a true treat in life to be savored.  My thanks to all of the above people for making this happen.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to check out this park, love your blog!