top of page

Echoes of Opulence: Unveiling Jim Thorpe's Treasures and Storied Past

Special thanks to article contributors Jo Lynn Gazo and DeAnna Dasher.
Photos courtesy of Desha Utsick.

Amidst the picturesque town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, lies a hidden gem that beckons both history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike. St. Mark's Church, with its regal presence and storied past, stands as a gateway to the opulent world of the town's Victorian era. Here, within the hallowed walls of this National Historic Landmark, a symphony of artistry and heritage unfolds.

Led by the charismatic and knowledgeable Jo Lynn Gazo, an extraordinary group of local guides at St. Mark's embarks on a mission to unveil the secrets of Carbon County's captivating history. Brace yourself for a journey that transcends time, where stories of influential families like the Packers echo through the corridors, and where the splendor of stained glass, oil paintings, and ornate carvings will leave you awestruck. So, prepare to immerse yourself in a world where the past intertwines with the present, as St. Mark's invites you to step into the tapestry of Jim Thorpe's vibrant past, to witness the triumphs of industrial innovation and to embrace the legacy of extraordinary individuals who shaped this remarkable community.

St. Marks Church
St. Marks Church in Jim Thorpe. Photo courtesy of Desha Utsick.

St. Mark's Church offers three different tours this season that visitors to the town can enjoy; an exclusive tour of the church, a walking tour (which includes the church tour), and a new tour of The Upper Mauch Chunk cemetery. Exploring the town's Victorian architecture, mansions, and historical sites, visitors on the tour gain a deeper understanding of how Jim Thorpe became a beloved small town with such opulence.

The church has a rich history connected to many influential members of Old Mauch Chunk, including the influential Packer family, Asa Packer being one of the founding members of the church. It is a National Historic Landmark and is known for its Gothic architecture and significant artifacts. The church is closely connected to the history of Jim Thorpe, formerly known as Mauch Chunk, which was home to an extraordinary number of millionaires in the 1860s. Six of these millionaires were parishioners at St. Mark's Church.

One of the highlights of the church is its collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany windows. Among them, the "Abide With Us" window stands out with its mesmerizing depiction of candle flames dancing in the yellow glass when sunlight shines through. These windows, designed by the founder of Tiffany & Co., are considered invaluable rarities.

The tour guides at St. Mark's Church provide visitors with narratives behind the artifacts and details, making the experience akin to visiting a posh metropolitan art museum. In addition to the stained glass, there are oil paintings installed in the ceiling and walls of areas of the church and carved wood and stone artifacts, as well as the pulpit, lectern, and baptistry which feature intricate designs in polished brass and Champlain marble.

The church's twenty-three-foot-high carved stone Reredos is copied from the Reredos located in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in England. This impressive work of art was erected by the Packer family in memory of Asa Packer. It was meticulously carved by New York artisans out of a fine-grained limestone called Caen stone.

Carved altar at St. Marks Church in Jim Thorpe
Carved Caen Reredos (altar) is a replication of the one found in Windsor Castle. Photo courtesy of Desha Utsick.

Visitors to the church can also experience a ride in one of the oldest continuously operating elevators on the East Coast. Donated by Mary Packer Cummings (Asa Packer's daughter) in 1911, the 1912 Otis birdcage elevator is unique in that it is large compared to other elevators of its time. It had to accommodate a casket and six pallbearers and has a capacity of four thousand pounds. Mary also donated several other items to the church during this time, including the carved Italian marble altar located in the Chapel and two large oil paintings located in The Great Hall of the church.

Apart from the church, the walking tour also includes visits to other significant locations in Jim Thorpe. These include the Carbon County Courthouse, where visitors can admire a Tiffany window and learn about its use in the filming of the 1970s movie "The Molly Maguires." The tour also takes guests around the town to learn more about the history at sites such as The Inn at Jim Thorpe, Dimmick Library, “Millionaire’s Row”, Opera House, and The Old Jail, which is steeped in folklore and anguish.

A new addition to the tours offered is an extended visit to the Upper Mauch Chunk Cemetery, where many of the town’s prominent figures are buried, including the Packer family. The Memorial Chapel of The Resurrection, the signature structure in the cemetery, was commissioned by Mark Packer and features beautiful stained glass windows. Other notable graves include those of Betsy Miller, a former slave and herbalist, and General William Lilly, a Civil War veteran and politician.

Lead Tour Guide Jo Lynn Gazo, a local teacher and dedicated researcher, shares her passion for Carbon County's history with visitors as well as all of the other wonderful local guides at St. Mark’s. Their extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject have led to quite a database of fascinating facts and impressive answers to tourist questions.

With each tour, the staff at St. Mark’s invite visitors to step into the past, to witness the splendor of a bygone era, and to feel the pulse of a community shaped by industrial innovation and remarkable individuals.

So, heed the call, embark on this journey, and let the echoes of history intertwine with the present, breathing life into the marvels of Jim Thorpe's vibrant past.

The 30 minute Church Tours are offered Thursdays - Saturdays 12pm-4pm, Sundays 1pm-5pm from May through October. Fall & Winter dates vary. Check the Online Booking Calendar to book online and for updated tour offerings. Tickets are $10 per adult, $5 per child over 10, free for children under 10.

Walking Tours of the town of this historic town of Jim Thorpe are available upon request.
Reservations are $15 per adult, $5 per child over 6, free for children 5 & under.
Please contact Tour Director, Jo, at 570-436-1762 to reserve.

Cemetery Tours are offered only on the First Friday of every month (June - October). Call 570-325-2241 or email to book. Adults (18+) $15, Ages 6-17 $10, Ages 5 and under are free.


bottom of page