Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mt. Pleasant Coke Works - Carpentertown, PA

This is the strangest thing I ever came across researching a coke plant. What started as excitement over six ovens being left of a 310 oven plant just took a very bizarre turn. All of this turned up by me just trying to figure out who the Carpenter was that Carpentertown was named after. I never did find that out. More on the weirdness later. Stick around. It's worth it.

 

The ovens of the Mount Pleasant Coke Works at Carpentertown were first fired on May 5, 1909. Initially the plant was started with 100 double block beehive ovens. By 1913 there were an additional 210 rectangular ovens. The Mount Pleasant Coke Company built and operated the plant. The company was organized by Jacob U. Kuhns of Greensburg and William A. Wilson. Kuhns and Wilson previously owned the Veteran Coke Company, The Mount Hope Coke Company, Mount Pleasant Coal Company and The Mount Pleasant-Connellsville Coke Company. Initially the plant is listed as being owned by the Mount Pleasant-Connellsville Coke Company but by 1913 the "Connellsville" had been dropped. Jacob Kuhns was president of all these companies. He passed away on April 12, 1934 from a heart attack.  

 

The first 100 ovens were built by contractor G.F. Stark of Greensburg. In 1908, while building the original coke plant, a fire broke out. Damage was listed at $10,000 and losses included a barn, 23 head of horses and 3 cows.  Only the horses are listed as being owned by Stark. 

 

This was the fourth coke plant owned by the company. The first plant they acquired was the Boyer Coke Works at Udell. The Boyer plant contained two banks of ovens with a total of 120. A few are still visible if you follow the old railway from Hecla. The rest are all gone and were located where Cannonball Court is now off of Udell Road. The second plant was the Veteran Works in the same area. A couple of these can be seen as well on private property along Armbrust Hecla Road. The third was the Beatty Works which are supposedly all gone and were located where the Unity Township Public Works buildings are located. 

 

Mount Pleasant appears to have operated the mine and coke works at least into 1926. The plant was idle from December 1920 until October 1921. There is an article from 1955 mentioning the Carpentertown Coal and Coke Company firing 187 ovens that year. This could be the same place since the companies other mines during this time period did not contain any ovens. Also the few remaining ovens look like they date much later than the 1920's.

 

Now for the weird part. The land that is Carpentertown was owned by the heirs of the railroad and coal baron William Thaw. The Mount Pleasant Coke Company acquired the land (1,000 acres) for $2,000 an acre. The reason the Thaw's sold the land was to pay for William's son, Harry K. Thaw's legal defense for the murder of acclaimed architect Stanford White. The murder case was huge national news at the time. On June 25, 1906 Harry Thaw murdered Stanford White on the roof of Madison Square Garden. White had been the lover of H.K. Thaw's wife Evelyn Nesbit. Evelyn was born in Tarentum in 1884 and was a chorus girl and artists model. So pretty much everybody involved was famous at the time. The trials of Thaw (there were two) were each called "The trial of the century". In the end the money the Thaw's made off the land deal didn't really help Harry much as he was found guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to life in a mental hospital in 1908. Escaping the asylum in 1913, Thaw was driven across the border to Quebec. It is believed his mom set him up with the ride. In 1914 he was extradited back to New York. In July 1915 he got another trial and was found no longer insane and set free. Sooo.... if Evelyn Nesbit hadn't been taken in by the charming Stanford White causing Harry Thaw to snap in a murderous outrage the town of Carpentertown may very well never have existed. I never did find out who Carpenter was. Please follow the highlighted links above on the names to find out more. This story is bizarre.

 

William Thaw (photo from Wikipedia)

 


Harry Kendall Thaw (photo from Wikipedia)

 

Stanford White (Photo from Wikipedia)

 

Evelyn Nesbit, yes, she was pretty hot. (photo from Wikipedia)

 


And now the photos from today:

 

Across the field on the right is where the block of rectangular ovens were.

Approaching what's left of the ovens. Where it says there was a double block makes no sense now. Unless this land was completely rearranged there is no way there could be a row of ovens behind this. And even if the land was completely stripped and reclaimed why would these few ovens still remain? The double block doesn't seem possible to me.


There are a couple more ovens underneath all this brush.

One of the six remaining semi-intact ovens.

They used Vulcan Crown bricks.

Inside one of the ovens.

 


These ovens are well used.



Remaining floor tiles.

Interesting brickwork.

This brick is definitely more recent than the 1920's.

Vulcan's are old.


Another interesting little feature on the side.

 


Notice how much larger these arches are.


I'm not sure if these are the rectangular ovens or the beehives. The arches are large like on the ones from today. These ovens also contain these later era steel doors. I was looking for any kind of indication of these doors on the ovens today. I couldn't find anything other the large arches. (photo from patheoldminer.com)

 




Large unusual brick on the bottom of the oven.


Parts of the oven looks like it has some of its original stone work.

There are a few nearly buried ovens in the hillside as well.



An old larry sleeper block on top of one of the more deteriorated ovens.


Bits and pieces of ovens were laying where the block was.

Old ties for mine or larry track.

This last oven on the bank looks like this large piece of concrete rolled off the hill and smashed through the oven.


More buried under the brush.

A couple last looks at the ovens.


Walking back. More bits and pieces on the bank.


An old piece of hardware in the mud.

A block in a stream.

What's left of the old reservoir.


Denizens of the old reservoir.

Coming toward me.


I guess they thought I had food.





Some remains where the rectangular's were.


Lots of brick debris.

When you see Garfield brick you're near ovens.

A chunk of baked fill.

A little pile of coke.

Two of the three remaining Carpentertown patch houses.

The third.

 



4 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing the pictures and explaining a good bit for me. I know little about mining except that some of my family were miners. I had read the novel, "Ragtime" by E.L.Doctorow years ago [he includes the lover's triangle story with Evelyn Nesbit, the girl in the swing, involved with Stanford White, but I did not realize how close to home that story was. Thanks again.

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    1. Thanks Del. I never realized that either. It's crazy the stuff that turns up as you research these sites. An old lovers triangle, murder case was the first for me! Thanks again for looking and for commenting.

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  2. Thanks for posting these great photos. When I was ages five to seven, we lived in the large brick house at the beginning of the road into the Carpentertown ovens. My father worked as a bookkeeper at the coke-oven offices. There were houses closer to the ovens, and one two-story warehouse-type building. I played with children who lived there. I attended first and second grade at the Hecla Elementary School (now demolished) which overlooked one of the coal mines. I have been back a couple of times and there is now no trace of the brick house.

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    1. Wow! Thanks for writing Brett. I figured there were more houses at one time. I appreciate you clearing that up. Thanks for sharing your story.

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