Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grace Coke Works-Moyer, PA

The most interesting thing about the Grace Coke Works is the layout. Three banks of coke ovens straddle two hillsides with a large valley in the middle, resulting in an upside down  "V" shape. The hill to the south contains one bank and the northern hill contains two. Today it seems like most of the ovens to the south remain while only a handful remain to the north. The ovens themselves are in poor condition but nice portions of the stone walls remain. An interesting feature is the height of the ovens. When you get further to the ends of the banks where they are closest together, the ovens sit about 20 feet up on a very steep hill. Towards the middle of the southern bank there is one perfectly intact oven that is impossible to get to. 


The Grace Coke Works, originally named the Eldorado Coke Works, date back to 1875 and were built by the John Moyer Company. John Moyer of Mt. Pleasant had secured the coal rights, on a sub-lease from Brunot and Detweiler, at the Beidler farm in 1871 and built the original forty ovens adjoining the railroad. After the ovens were operated for a few years they became the property of Brunot and Detweiler, who leased them to W.F. Zuck and Joseph B. Henry. Zuck and Henry are credited as building an additional 40 ovens.


Circa 1879 the W.J. Rainey Coke Company is credited with building an additional 328 ovens at Grace, bringing the total to 408. Rainey at this time was General Manager of the Cleveland Rolling Mill Company and the coke plant is credited as being owned by the Cleveland Company in 1880. After this date ownership is listed as the W.J. Rainey Coke Company. I am also assuming it was in the 1879-1880 era that the name was switched from Eldorado to Grace. Rainey had a daughter named Grace, who became a world renowned art collector and philanthropist, and it is not inconceivable to believe that the plant was renamed in her honor. This was Rainey's second venture in the coke business, his first being the Fort Hill Coke Works near Vanderbilt. Eventually he would operate around 15 coke plants throughout Fayette and Southern Westmoreland Counties. At the time of William J. Rainey's death on March 27, 1900 he owned 2,231 ovens at 8 plants. By 1913 there were only 124 ovens in operation at Grace and the plant ceased to exist in 1927.  


In 1881 there were 125 men employed at Grace. The Superintendent was Frank R. Bradford, the Yard Boss was J.W. Brooks, and the mines were carried out under the direction of J.B. Henry.


The upside down "V" shape of the Grace Coke Works circled.
Approaching the southern bank.

One of the remaining stone walls.

Some more remaining stone.

This is one of the ovens in better condition on the southern bank.

A disintegrating oven.

There was a lot of really nice coke samples laying around.

This is coming around the bend of the southern bank.

This is the valley section. The ovens from the north bank are visible to the right.

The corner oven before these things started getting really high up.

The prize!!

Incredibly intact compared to everything else.

But completely unapproachable.

At this point I didn't even realize there were ovens above here until I got over to the other hill.

It's hard to tell but these ovens are very high up.

Looking over at the northern bank.

This is the end of the northern bank at the bottom of the "V". The second bank that was shown on the map on this side is completely gone

Looking across at the southern bank.

At this point the northern bank ovens begin disappearing.

This is the last visible oven heading north.

After this all the ovens are buried.

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