A sense of place can be quite significant for a writer. I am naturally skeptical of advice about ‘finding inspiration.’ Such talk is rather silly because both exploration of topic and voice in a piece of writing are the result of cultivation. When I write of inspiration, I write of it bearing in mind the etymology of the term ‘to breathe into.’ There are those times in life where inspiration in the truest sense does make a real difference. I am a Pennsylvanian living in exile in New Jersey at present. Recently, I took a day trip out to the scenic town of Jim Thorpe in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. The town, formerly known as Mauch Chunk, was renamed after the Native American Olympic athlete in the 1950s.
Known as the ‘Switzerland of America,” Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania hosts many historic buildings nestled among scenic mountains in every direction.
The historic Mauch Chunk train station (1888) is the main visitor center and still functions as a station. The Lehigh Gorge railway picks up tourists here for a trip into the surrounding mountains. The area is usually full of people in the fall. This area is only this empty because I arrived early on a weekday. By mid-afternoon, this becomes one of the most crowded areas downtown.
Near the station is the rail yard. Old boxcars are parked next to exposed rock and the ramp on which people drive into town.
The downtown area is perfectly preserved. Victorian architecture dominates. The original town was founded nineteen years before the Victorian era began, in 1818. It was founded as a company town for the workers of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company.
The streets are full of characteristic row houses, interrupted every now and then by a restaurant or public building.
The former Carbon County Jail function as a prison from the 1870s to 1980. The building is most famous as the site where seven Irish coal miners associated with the Molly Maguires were hanged in the 1870s. The Molly Maguires was a nineteenth-century secret society, associated with labor disputes and made up of miners in the United States and Ireland. This society was associated with murder, arson, and kidnapping. By the 1870s, Pinkerton detectives were cracking down on the organization.
The streets themselves offer a wonderful walking experience — stone and brick on either side and mountains in the background in every direction.