The obituaries of his day speak highly of him at his death, a man who accomplished so much as a young man, Associate Judge of Carbon County and President of the Lehigh Railroad, as well as Board Member of Lehigh University. All positions he had stepped into after the death of his father as he had stepped into that mansion on the hill his father had built for him. They talk of his long and painful illness, his death from the internal hemorrhage brought about by its complications.
A month before his death, The New York Times reported on his illness, how he was confined to that mansion on the hill and attended by, of all names, Dr. Pepper. Dr. William Pepper, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania assured everyone of the ultimate recovery of the young judge. But at 2:00 AM on the morning of February 2, 1884 Judge Harry Packer packed it in. It was mentioned in the Times that the judge suffered from an affection of the liver. What Harry Parker suffered from were the indulgences and indiscretions he chose to adapt as the spoiled baby of the wealthiest family of Pennsylvania. What he died of, at the age of 34, was cirrhosis of the liver. Harry Packer would have been better off if he had drank Dr.Pepper rather than being examined by him.
The Harry Packer mansion stands today as a bed and breakfast where they hold murder-mystery audience participation plays.
The Asa Packer Mansion sits high atop his beloved town of Mauch Chunk, now known as Jim Thorpe, PA. He could sit out on the front porch and gaze over much of what he had created, the railroad, the homes of his workers, the town and also the church he faithfully attended, St. Marks Episcopal.
Asa had not come to Mauch Chunk as an Episcopalian. He was a Methodist when he came. He took his family to a church in town and they sat down in a pew to await the service. He was embarrassed when he and his family were told to move because he had sat in a rented pew. He swore he would never go back to such a place of hypocrisy, and he didn't.
This is the view as you approach the midpoint up the yard of the mansion. The tall pointy building in the center is St. Marks. Some of the brick buildings directly below are part of the Carbon County Courthouse.
The beginning point of the enjoyable tour back into the 19th Century life of the prominent begins on the porch, relaxing in a chair awaiting the guide.
You are led around to the left side and enter the building through Asa's office.
The mansion is not a restoration, but a preservation. What you see is how it was, at least at the time it was willed to Mauch Chunk in 1912 by his daughter Mary Hannah.
Although Asa Packer was a decent man and philanthropist (and Lehigh University charged no tuition the first 26 years of its existence), there were other rich and powerful men in the Carbon County coal towns not so generous to others and those who worked for many of these wealthy barons lived a life far below the top of the hill where the Packer's dwelt.
That is another part of the town of Jim Thorpe we will soon visit.
All photos by the author except:
The two mansion rooms (you are not allowed to photograph inside the house).
The oval photo of Mary Hannah Packer Cummings (from the Asa Packer Mansion Association).
The painting of Asa Packer by DeWitt Clinton Boutelle, 1873.