A bit of history returned to Sayre

Gathered around the Robert Packer Mansion table are, from left, Ronald J. Sheehan, executive director of the Asa Packer Museum and Carbon County treasurer; Henry G. Farley, Sayre Historical Society and Sayre Borough mayor; Jim Trainer, Jim Thorpe Lions Club Mansion Committee member; and Ken Bracken of the Sayre Historical Society. Farley and Bracken are both past presidents of the Sayre Historical Society.

On Saturday, Nov. 3, Ronald J. Sheehan, executive director of the Asa Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe, Pa., and Jim Trainer, a member of the Jim Thorpe Lions Club who serves on the mansion committee, drove to Sayre to present the Sayre Historical Society with a table that was in the possession of the Asa Packer Museum that is made from various items from the Robert Packer Mansion.

The Asa Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe was the home of Robert Packer's parents and when Mary Packer Cummings, the last of the Packer children, died, the home was given to the town of Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe). The mansion is operated as a museum by the Jim Thorpe Lions Club.

The table is one of two that were made when the Robert Packer Mansion was torn down in 1960 to make way for the construction of a $1.8 million addition to the hospital which became known as the Stedge Pavilion. Howard Bishop, long time administrator of the Robert Packer Hospital, (1912-1951), and Dr. Stanley Conklin were the original owners of the tables. The table given to the Sayre Museum was Howard Bishop's.

What we know about the Packer Mansion from history is that it was known for lavish furniture, woodwork and drapery and other interior furnishings. It was richly ornamental in design with 11 fireplaces. One account tells that the dining room had a hand carved Moroccan Leather ceiling that cost $50,000 when installed. The Robert Packer Mansion in Sayre was completed in 1877 and was the home of Robert and his wife Emily Piollet Packer until 1883 when Robert died. In 1885 the home was given to Sayre to be used for a hospital for the growing numbers of Lehigh Valley Railroad workers and their families.

Several trips have been sponsored by the historical society over the years to tour the Asa Packer Mansion and, during one of the trips, the table was pointed out to us. Each time we have come in contact with the officials from the museum over the years the subject of the table has come up and in 2016, Ken Bracken of the Sayre Historical Society contacted the Ronald Sheehan and the Mansion Committee of the Jim Thorpe Lions and asked if they would consider giving the table to the Sayre Museum.

After going through the proper channels, the group decided to give the table to the Sayre Historical Society and with the visit of Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Trainer, the table was brought to Sayre and a bit of our local history has been returned to help us tell the story of Sayre's past.

A note attached to the bottom of the table on Robert Packer Hospital stationary, dated Oct. 31, 1965, from Howard E. Bishop states: "This coffee table has been made from materials taken from the residence of Robert A. Packer which was built about 1880. The legs of the table are from the main stairway; the molding around the top was from the doorways in the dining room; the tooled Italian leather was taken from the beautiful ceiling in the dining room and the corner tiles were from over the doorway in my original office."

The Sayre Historical Society is very interested in locating the second table that was in the possession of Dr. Stanley Conklin. Anyone having information as to the whereabouts of the table is asked to please contact the society.

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