Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Day In Dunbar-Mahoning & Uniondale Coke Works

Today we spent the day in Dunbar, PA checking out some old coke works and just looking around the town. The town itself retains a lot of interesting architecture and the two neighboring coke plants we explored contained many ovens in varying conditions. We explored the old Mahoning Coke Works, which for their age contained some ovens in relatively decent condition. It also featured some ovens that were nearly completely buried. We also checked out the old Uniondale/Watt Coke Works. These ovens were quite extensive, wrapping the whole way around the hillside. However, there were only three that still contained their fronts and only two of these were in moderately decent condition.


Mahoning Coke Works


The Mahoning Coke Works date back to 1872. Messrs, Paull, Brown and Co. bought the coal rights to 100 acres of coal land and built 100 ovens. Paull, Brown & Company operated the coke works until 1878 when the Mahoning Coke Company took over. In 1882 the coke plant is listed as being owned by Brown, Bonnell and Company. In 1885 the Cambria Steel Company took over the operation and shipped the coke to their mills in Johnstown. It is unclear how long Cambria controlled the ovens. There is mention of the coke plant being owned by the Mahoning Coal & Coke Company in the 1914 Black Diamond trade journal's year in review. It is also listed as having only 84 ovens at that time. Also of interest, in ca.1903 the Mahoning Mine was connected underground with the nearby Atlas Mine.

This is a chart of the Mahoning Coke Works.

After tromping through a garbage dump we came to the ovens on the eastern side of the eastern block.

These are the ovens on the eastern side of the western block.

Trunnel hole.

The retaining walls on this side were pretty intact.

The western side of the eastern block.

Maybe some of these ovens were operated later.

Still nice brickwork with some hardware remaining.

Looking over at the western block from the eastern block.

These ovens are almost swallowed up into the ground.

No fronts but still nice shape.

Brick collapse.

Somehow the ground has risen around this nicely intact oven.

South of the ovens is this old slate dump.

Look between the two blocks from the south.

A pipe sticking out of the ground.

Most of the cone appears to have been sheared from this oven.

North end of the eastern block.

Dunbar, PA


 I'm not going to get too deep into the history of Dunbar. The town was originally settled in the 1790's and was incorporated in 1883. Dunbar was first known as Frogtown, then Dunbar City and finally as Dunbar. The town was named after Colonel Thomas Dunbar who was in charge of the 48'th Regiment Foot in the French and Indian War. 

The first industry was Isaac Meason's Union Iron Furnace #1 around 1793. Between the time of Meason's iron furnace through the 1950's Dunbar was home to many industries. It's location in the heart of the Connellsville Coke District allowed it to play an important role in that industry.

Dunbar has a very active Historical Society and much more information is available on their website here:


As soon as we parked we saw this iron gate over this door of a large stone room. I'm going to look into it but right now I do not know what it is.


Looking inside the gate.

Looking up Connellsville Street.

Santa Clause.

George Swearingen building 1901.

They do not build them like this anymore.

The R.W. Clark building 1881.

There is some work going on in this building. Hopefully it's being restored.

One of the churches.

The greatest addition to a house ever. Add a camper and build on to it.

I'm not sure what this building is. It's very, very old.

Across the street from that building is this old building currently used by the Boy Scouts.

Uniondale Coke Works


The Uniondale Coke Works date back to 1869 and were constructed for Messrs, Watt, Taylor and Company of Dunbar. Originally it contained only 40 ovens but 20 more were soon erected. Ownership seems to have changed pretty rapidly in the beginning. Next in line was Watt, Byer and Company followed by T.W. Watt and Company. Regardless, Watt seems to have kept his hand in it. In 1878, the Reid Brothers bought the coke works and added another 16 ovens. Before the 76 ovens were abandoned in 1910 it appears ownership bounced around a few more times including a stint with the Cambria Iron Company.


This was the average condition of these ovens.

There were a lot. All 76 appear to remain.

This was it for the ovens in semi decent condition.

C.J. climbing in.

Marybeth standing outside.

Looking up through the trunnel hole.

Looking outside.

A huge arch brick marked TA.

Looking across the field. The ovens ran the whole way along the hillside. 
A cell phone panorama.



  1. Three of the Uniondale ovens are going to be stabilized and signage added. The planning/structural assessment has been done. Visit the Dunbar Historical Society if interested in seeing the project information.

    1. I heard that! A friend got me one of those beehive banks you were selling. He told me you guys were going to be working on the Uniondale ovens. I still need to stop down and see you.