of the architectural splendor of Jim Thorpe can be attributed to
the efforts and money of Asa Packer. By the mid 1800s he had amassed an
estate worth $54 million dollars. By the current measure of purchasing
power that would be equivalent to approximately $1.25 billion dollars.
Like most of the industrial titans of the day he used a portion of that
wealth to improve his own backyard. Today that would mean a private
island in the Caribbean or a remote compound in Wyoming. During the
19th century it meant building the houses and structures that served
the needs of your workers and their families. Unfortunately much of
this construction was not the result of largess or liberality; but
instead it came about as part of that unique form of indentured
servitude instituted by the Robber Barons against the working class.
RACE STREET IN JIM THORPE
was not the case though with Asa Packer. Those structures which
became part of his legacy, including Lehigh University, are a testament
to a man of high integrity who sought only the betterment of his
community and the nurturing of his fellowman.
Along Race Street just beyond St. Mark’s Episcopal Church stands a row
of sixteen three story buildings. These dwellings, which may have been
inspired by Philadelphia’s historic Elfreth’s Alley, are reminiscent of
those quiet charming neighborhoods common to Quebec, Dublin or
Edinburgh. Packer constructed these homes for the engineers and foreman
of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
amongst the structures of Stone Row is the BLACK
BREAD CAFE. On
the second floor of this fine dining establishment is an inviting
hideaway that offers excellent libations in an atmosphere that is warm,
stylish and comfortable. Owners Robert and Debbie Dynan have created a
space that is in harmony with the historic character of the building.
THE BLACK BREAD CAFE
FUN AND FRIENDLY
Packer was a capitalist, philanthropist, and statesman; but at the
core of his being was the soul of a precise and gifted carpenter, a man
who with his own hands built houses and canal boats. The harvest of his
vision, business acumen and physical skills continue to be the heart of
this community. His spirit begs our perambulations, and no turn of the
town would be complete without a ramble down Race Street. And once
you’ve gone that far - I highly recommend an ascent of the stairs at
THE COZY BAR AT THE BLACK