Sunday, December 20, 2015

Anica Coke Works Whitsett PA

Up on the hillside behind the Youghiogheny River town of Whitsett are the remains of the Anica Coke Works. The earliest mention I have found for the Anica Coke Works is from 1908. The Kaine and Wilkey Coke Company was a partnership of Charles Irwin Kaine and Wilmer Harry Wilkey. The Kaine and Wilkey Coke Company constructed  the coke plant which initially consisted of 32 ovens. Mr Kaine passed away in 1909 and his share of the partnership went on the market.


 Uniontown Morning Herald -February 29, 1912


This ad appeared on February 29, 1912. By March 4, 1912 Kaine's half had been purchased by James Isaac Feather.


Uniontown Morning Herald -March 4, 1912


By March 11, 1912 the new company called the Wilkey and Feather Coke Company had been born. 


Uniontown Morning Herald -March 11, 1912

 Also in 1912 Anica Coke Works is listed as having 40 ovens. This would be as large as the plant would get. 


In 1915 Mr. Wilkey got married. As can be seen by his wedding announcement, he also had many other interests outside of the coke company. Also in the wedding announcement it looks like his bride is already married? She is already referred to as "Mrs. Wyatt" although her family name is "Cook". 


Uniontown Morning Herald- July 7, 1915


Anica lasted until at least 1921. The last mention of Anica I can find is in the 1921 "Coal Field Directory" and it is listed as being operated by the Wilkey Coal and Coke Company. Somewhere between 1915 and 1921 Mr. Feather left the company. Wilmer Wilkey passed away in November of 1935 from a heart attack. His body was found in a Pittsburgh hotel room.


Uniontown Morning Herald- November 21, 1935

Uniontown Morning Herald- November 20, 1935


Today most of the 40 ovens still remain on the hillside off the Elwell Branch of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. The fronts of all the ovens are missing but there are occasional sections of retaining wall still visible. The branch itself is a very nice walk too. 


Walking up the railroad branch toward the ovens.

It's a little bit of a walk but the ovens weren't too difficult to locate. This was my second attempt at this. Thanks to the Whitsett Historical Society for setting me straight!

A section of retaining wall.

This is the condition of all the ovens.

A pile of bricks in one of the ovens.

Looking out.

Pretty clean inside.

Looking out again.


A light dusting of snow really makes these ovens stand out.

Snow, ferns and ovens.

An old oven face.

Last weekend when I hiked back here it was 60 degrees. Today it was around 30.

Interesting hole inside this oven.

Same oven, different hole.

Look closely to the back of the hole to see evidence of the inhabitants of the hole.

The big pile of bat guano.

The bat oven.

More ferns, snow and ovens.

Another piece of retaining wall.

A hole between two ovens.

A collapsing oven.

Interesting detail of brickwork and the fill covering the ovens. The fill used to insulate these ovens became baked solid from the heat.

Remaining pieces of support block on top of this oven. These blocks held the weight of the tracks and the larry cars that charged the ovens so the ovens wouldn't be damaged.

This bank was once the loading pier of the coke plant. Where I am standing is the spur where the trains would pull up to load the coke.

Another look at the pier with the ovens in the back.

The railroad spur.


The following photos are from last weekend when I was unable to locate the ovens. Just a look at some of the other interesting things in the area.


Up along the outcrop at the top of the hill were the remains of long sealed mine entrances.

The Elwell Branch had some nice cuts along the way.

Waterfall under what was once a bridge on the branch.

Remains of the bridge piers.
Old mine track sticking out of the side of the hill.

You can follow this rope (I did) up to the top of the mountain. Don't. There's nothing up there.

At this wye the trains could go to the right and continue south on the old Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad which is now the Great Allegheny Passage. The left would take the trains northbound via the Anica Coke Works and the Whitsett Mine.

A shelter somebody made under an outcrop.

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