JIM THORPE, Pa. — Nestled on Packer Hill Avenue in Jim Thorpe, the Asa Packer Mansion Museum has sat vacant without visitors and tours for the past year.
But that changed last weekend when the museum reopened to visitors.
"I was very excited that it was opening, but it was also a strange feeling trying to uncover something that's been covered a year and a half. I've been here for 45 years, and it's never been closed," the director and curator Ava Bretzik.
The mansion was the home of Asa Packer, the founder of both the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University.
It's the first time the mansion opened since the coronavirus pandemic began, and while tours are now taking place, it's different than before.
"We are only allowed to have 10 people in the house at a time," Bretzik said. "We have guides stationed in all of the rooms, and you will walk through, and they will tell you a little bit about the room."
Masks are required for guests over 4 years old. The third floor is closed because you can't keep social distance.
The museum director says she knows tours will look and feel a lot different for visitors this year, but the new protocols in place are for everyone's safety.
The director is hoping that after Memorial Day, tours can resume to what they once were, and community members agree.
Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevich says he grew up a few houses down from the mansion and was inspired by the life of Asa Packer, even studying at Lehigh University for his MBA. He believes it's important to invest in the museum.
"Providing the resources to keep the tours going, keeping the building up to date as it is but reflecting its original set up in that it allows us to educate," said Commissioner Lukasevich.
Bretzik says the mansion first opened to the public in 1956, and she hopes it never has to close to tours again.