Most people don’t even know it’s there. Locals generally ignore it because of the reputation it acquired a few years ago when it held a little skateboard park, which wound up being vandalized. But as with all things, you really need to see Kemmerer Park for yourself.
So I wandered over there recently during a morning walk. My girlfriend had told me the flowers were especially beautiful at the moment. Getting to the park is an easy stroll up Mansion House Hill across from the Harry Packer B&B. I’m not a horticulturist nor do I really know the names of any flowers, but I would have to have had a stone in my chest not to have been moved.
I was the only one there, it was about 7:30 AM. The sun was just beginning to crest the hillside and outline the profile of St. Mark’s Church. The air was cool, and I heard the distant hum of the occasional car as it climbed its way out of town on Route 209. Flowers were in bloom everywhere, buds were springing to life on the trees and bushes, and the scent of dew was on everything.
The Mahlon S. Kemmerer Mansion occupied the area from 1879 to 1927, when it was dismantled to make way for a town park. Kemmerer himself was one of the prominent citizens of Mauch Chunk who had made his fortune in coal. His business interests extended as far as Wyoming, where the town of Kemmerer is named after him. The Wentz mansion was just next door, built in 1886. Deterioration sadly resulted in its demolition in the 1960’s. Now the site is a parking lot for the Carbon County Annex Building.
It’s hard to avoid the sense that the town doesn’t know what it has here: the views are lovely, the benches are positioned to provide privacy and quiet, and the place seems to brimming with various types of trees, bushes and flowers. I had the sense I was in a garden somewhere in Asia rather than Jim Thorpe, PA.
I used to always bring my sister’s kids here when they were young. There is a great swingset (I promise you, you’ll try it yourself), and other playground apparatus that are situated in a very unobtrusive way that help make Kemmerer Park a place that everyone can enjoy.