THE TABLE: Jim Thorpe to the North, Lancaster County West

Jim Thorpe, PA is sometimes called the “Switzerland of America.”
Jim Thorpe, PA is sometimes called the “Switzerland of America.” Photo by Bette Banjack
The Harry Packard mansion has been turned into a bed & breakfast.  For all the formal events, guests are required to dress in Victorian garb.
The Harry Packard mansion has been turned into a bed & breakfast. For all the formal events, guests are required to dress in Victorian garb. Photo by Bette Banjack

Jim Thorpe, because of its picturesque and mountainous location is called the “Switzerland of America” as well as the “Gateway to the Poconos.” Originally named “Mauch Chunk” -- meaning “Bear Place” or “Sleeping Bear,” it was the area inhabited by the native people of the Munsee-Lenape-Delaware nation. It is the county seat for Carbon County. It is situated several miles west on route 209 off the Northeast Extension of PA Turnpike.

The town was founded in 1818 and grew due to the forming of the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. The area was developed on the flat mouth of the Lehigh River. As other companies entered the picture it became the center for development and transportation of coal, connecting mines and the town with a gravity railroad and a “switch-back-twisted backtrack.”

As industry grew, so did the attraction of money and the charm of the Victorian Era. Downtown developed an area known as “Millionaire Row,” as well as mansions high on a hill. Rumor has it that Mauch Chunk had the most millionaires between 1880-1900 in the United States (as many as 13).

The two Packard mansions stand high above the town with a direct view overseeing the railroad station to observe rail activity. Best known was Asa Packard. Who would be considered a billionaire by today’s standards.


Once, my mother and I were guested at a Victorian Wedding at the Harry Packard Mansion. This mansion sits near the Asa Packard Mansion on Packard Hill Avenue which is open only for tours and other community events. The Harry Packard mansion has been turned into a bed & breakfast. For all the formal events guests were required to dress in Victorian garb.

Now about the name change of Mauch Chunk to Jim Thorpe. After his death in 1953 the widow of Jim Thorpe made a deal to move his remains for his final burial place. At the time, the town was desperate to attract dwindling business to the area. Until this day the town is still divided over the name change and reasons behind it. Jim Thorpe was a gold medal Olympic Winner in 1912 in two categories – decathlon and the pentathlon.

Between 2010 and 2015 the town and his family along with the Native American Protection Act battled for his remains to return to Oklahoma -- to his Shawnee birthplace. He was of a mixed heritage – his father was Irish and his mother was of the Sac-Fox tribes. The final decision was that his body was to remain in Carbon County.

Bed & Breakfast Quiche

1 unbaked 9” pie shell

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

¼ tsp. each salt, black pepper & ground nutmeg

1/4 lb. fresh baby spinach

½ lb. white button mushrooms - butter

½ cup finely chopped scallions

1 cup grated cheese or cheeses

Lightly sauté button mushrooms in butter. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Beat in a bowl eggs, salt, pepper nutmeg; fold in cream. Over bottom of pie shell place spinach, mushrooms & chopped scallions; pour egg mixture over top. Sprinkle with cheese & bake for 45 minutes or until eggs are set.


Not only for Breakfast

1¾ cups of all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter

½ cup cream

¼ cup orange juice

¾ cup grated orange zest

¼ cup currants

egg white wash

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder & baking soda. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add enough milk & orange juice to make a soft dough – add in currants; combining mixture well. On a floured surface roll out to a 1” thickness. Cut dough in desired shapes with a cookie cutter or with a knife. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush lightly with beaten egg whites. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

When I first started to outline this article – it was planned to highlight towns in Pennsylvania with strange names. But since there are so many places and areas in the state with strange or different names I decided to highlight only a few.

Which brings us to Lancaster County – known as the “Dutch Country.” The area has a high population of religious communities – Mennonites - the Amish – the Church of the Brethren. These groups are known for their closed lifestyle and deep religious beliefs. It is ironic that many of the towns in the area have sort of a sexual type names. There is Paradise – Blue Ball - Intercourse - Bird-In-Hand – Bareville. German is generally spoken in the area and it is most likely names got changed in the translation. Paradise was a nice place to live as “in paradise.” Intercourse’s original name was “Enter Course.” Bird-In-Hand relates to something about how it is better to have two roads and not just one road between Philadelphia and Lancaster.

It seems people from Lancaster County tend to like their sweets & treats . . .

Dutch Soft Pretzels

1 pack dry yeast

1 ½ cups warm water

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

coarse salt

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water -- add in flour sugar and salt; mix well. Knead into a smooth and satiny dough on a floured surface. Cut off pieces of dough in equal parts. Roll dough into long pieces – shape and twist into pretzel shape. Shaping a pretzel may take a little bit of practice – so be patient. Brush top with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes – until golden brown.

Homemade Root Beer

1 tsp. active dry yeast

½ cup warm water

2 cups granulated sugar

4 cups hot boiled water

4 tsp. root beer extract

Dissolve yeast in warm water – dissolve sugar in hot boiled water. In a gallon glass jug, combine yeast and sugar mixtures – stir until all ingredients are combined and dissolved. Cover jar – set in warm sun for 4 hours. It will be ready to drink the next day. It is best to chill before serving.


Let me hear from you: Search YouTube for Look Who’s Cooking as well as for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”