Formerly known as Mauch Chunk, this mountain village was once one of the richest towns in America, built on coal mining and railroads. Set in the beautiful western Pocono Mountains, its rich culture, European feel, and natural scenery led to its nickname "the Switzerland of America," and it has been a tourist destination since the mid-1800s. Now, almost 200 years later, this very walkable Victorian village offers a rich history and a wealth of activities for the outdoors enthusiast.
Who was Jim Thorpe? One would logically assume the name was derived from a town hero. A Native American icon and one of the most popular sports figures of the first half of the 20th century, Jim Thorpe was an Olympic gold medalist, professional baseball and football star, and the first president of the National Football League. In the mid-1900s, the town of Mauch Chunk became impoverished as the mining industry declined, and in an act of desperation for tourism dollars, changed its name to honor him.
In actuality, Jim Thorpe had never been in the town. But when no other place would erect a suitable memorial to this American hero, the town council negotiated with his family to exhume his body, move his grave and erect a monument in his honor. In 1954, a fitting tribute to America?s greatest athlete was dedicated, the town changed its name, and the name Mauch Chunk slipped away into history.
Incidentally, the town didn't gain the reknown it had hoped for with the name change. It wasn't until the mid-'80s that the Chamber of Commerce became proactive about changing the town's image, and started drawing tourists to the town's unique attractions and history. Once run down, the same Main St. façade is now charming and quaint and being snatched up by artists and shop owners, and the residential areas surrounding the beautiful downtown are home to new transplants and generations of locals, as well as second homes for many urbanites.