Sitting on a hillside overlooking the charming borough of Jim Thorpe, you’ll find the Asa Packer Mansion Museum.
The Asa Packer Mansion was completed in 1861 and was the home of Asa Packer, the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Packer would live in this home until his death in 1879. After that, his wife and then later his daughter, Mary Packer Cummings, lived in the home until her death in 1912.
At the time of her death, Mary Packer Cummings decided to will the home to the Borough of Mauch Chunk (the historic name for Jim Thorpe) as a monument to her father. Amazingly, over the years, very little had changed inside the home from when Asa Packer had lived there.
After being closed for 44 years, the home first opened to the public in 1956 thanks to the work of the local Lion’s Club and has been open for tours ever since.
Tours of this beautiful Carbon County home are offered throughout much of the year and last about an hour. It’s worth noting that tickets are only sold at the small gift shop in the basement of the home and are cash only. So, if you are visiting on a busy day, you’ll want to arrive at the home early to secure a spot.
It’s also worth noting that photos are not allowed inside the home, which is why I was, unfortunately, unable to take my own interior photos for this article.
Tours take visitors through large portions of the first and second floors of the home. This Italianate Villa-style home is in impeccable shape and is, without question, stunning.
Despite the home being lived in for more than 30 years after the death of Asa Packer, very little was changed in regard to the home’s furnishings. And, when the home was given to the borough, all of the contents of the home were included, so it’s an incredible time capsule of a home from the early part of the Gilded Age.
It was for this reason that the production designers for the movie “Gone with the Wind” wanted to purchase all of the home’s furnishings to decorate the film. And, while none of the items in the home were sold, the chandelier in the home was directly copied for use in the movie.
So, while the piece here isn’t the one used in the movie, it’s still interesting to look at the original inspiration for such an iconic light fixture.
Another interesting piece in the home is the 1905 model D Grand Welte Cottage Orchestrion, which is the only working model in the United States. This giant piece is like an entire orchestra in a box the size of a large dresser, and hearing it play is really neat and one of the highlights of any visit to the Asa Packer Mansion.
After touring the home, it’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy the art pieces on display in the yard, as well as the Harry Packer Mansion next door.
The Harry Packer Mansion was built by Asa for his son in 1874. The home was designed in an Italianate style and is now home to a bed and breakfast. The exterior of the home, which you won’t want to miss when visiting the Asa Packer Mansion, was used as the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion at Disney World.
That makes it definitely worthwhile to take a minute to check out this next-door home.
Overall, if you love historic homes. architecture, or just seeing unique sites, a visit to the Asa Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe, PA is a must. The combination of being a historically important home and having nearly all of its 19th-century furnishings intact makes this a really unique and special place to check out when exploring the Poconos.
Asa Packer Mansion
Open Weekends in April, May, November, and early December
Cost: Adults: $12, Children: $9
Address: Packer Hill Ave