Built in 1869, St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Race Street in Jim Thorpe, PA offers guided tours and a glimpse into the town's past.
Jim Thorpe, Carbon County - The borough of Jim Thorpe has a rich history, and some of that history is on display inside St. Mark's & St. John's Episcopal on Race Street, where thousands of people come every year for a guided tour. Signs of elegance and wealth are everywhere you look inside the church, built in 1869. St. Mark's & St. John's was attended and well-funded by eight local millionaires who found their fortunes in the booming coal and railroad industries.
“This church has stood the test of time. It has seen the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, World War One, World War Two, and of course the post-World War boom and economy,” said lead tour director Jo Lynn Gazo.
153 years later, it remains a fully functioning church and is open on select days seasonally for public tours. “Many of the articles and artifacts found in our church today are all original. They date back to an era when coal was king and The Gilded Age ruled,” added Gazo.
Nowhere else in America can you get so close to two Tiffany Stained Glass windows, together worth more than $5-million when last appraised in the 1990s. Behind the altar stands a reredos with royal connections. Its artist was given the green light by Queen Victoria herself to visit and replicate the one in Saint George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. “It is sculpted with such precision that you’ll see a darker colored stone right next to a lighter colored stone, and absolutely no seam between the two pieces,” explained tour guide Gail Lazar.
The Jim Thorpe church has a strong foundation, built into the side of Flagstaff Mountain. From a 24k gold leaf illumination on the ceiling to the expensive floors beneath your feet, luxury spans top to bottom. “Just in the sanctuary alone we have $10 million worth of Minton Tiles,” Lazar said.
The touch touches on legendary tales and truths, including a story about Mary Packer Cummings, one of the church’s millionaire members. She donated money to build the 1912 Otis Birdcage elevator (which visitors can still experience today) and wanted to be first to ride in it. “She got her wish, but not quite like she had planned. Mary died before the elevator was completed, so she was the first casket to ride in it,” said tour guide Dee Dasher.
Tours around St. Mark’s & St. John’s Episcopal, a National Historic Landmark, cost $5 per person, which goes back to preserving the church and its history.