Sunday, December 27, 2015

Oliver No. 3 Coke Works

Oliver No. 3 was the third of four of the Oliver & Snyder Steel Company's coke plants. The Oliver & Snyder Steel Company has a large part in early Pittsburgh industrial history. Henry W. Oliver began his manufacturing career in 1863 as a member of the firm Lewis, Oliver & Philips. They started by making nuts and bolts on the south side (then Birmingham). 




 Along with his brothers, the firm eventually evolved into the Oliver Iron & Steel Co. and for a time was the largest manufacturer of bar iron and specialty iron in the United States. In the late 1800's this company, along with William Penn Snyder (of Wilpen fame) formed the Oliver & Snyder Steel Company. Unlike Snyder's other interests, the Shenango Furnace Company, which sent their coke to their plant in Sharpsville (Mercer County), Oliver & Snyder's coke went to the Oliver's interests in Pittsburgh. 




I'm only guessing, but since three of these brothers are listed as president it must have been different time periods. Either that or it was a very strange company. 


Even recently the descendants of the Oliver and Snyder families have made news regarding the family's estate in Sewickley.  Being the heirs of an industrial fortune must be very challenging.

Oliver No. 3 was constructed in 1903 and lasted until around 1944. Whether it operated consistently the entire time I'm not sure. In 1915 Oliver No. 3 is listed as having 300 ovens. There is one block and one bank of ovens. Most of the 300 ovens remain today. Some are in extremely poor condition, others are in good condition.


Just walking around here today, it is so hard to picture this in its heyday. This photo is from 1904 when it was a new plant.
A look at the boiler room in 1904.


And here is the layout of the entire area:


The ovens on the bank and the bank side of the block are the most intact.


And here is how all this looked in a 1939 aerial shot of the area:



Here are today's photos.


The first of the bank ovens. They do get better...

A lot of these ovens had this green tint.

A nicer section.

A nice yellow Kittanning brick.

Lots of cooked fill.

This odd little oven. I'm not sure what it's all about.

Nice hardware here.

The odd square oven on the left.

A strange winter makes for interesting vegetation.

A look over at the back side of the block.

More ferns.

An interesting contrast of brick.

This oven kept its original block in the arch.

Another interesting mix of brick. It looks like it was repaired with yellow brick later.

This is how the original arch block gets lost.


Looking out at the block.

Nice and intact.

The bottom left has an interesting little feature.

Four courses high. It's purpose?

The end of the bank as well as a lot of the block appear to have almost a solid pour concrete foundation.

It's pretty flooded down this end.

Ruins of an old building at the end of the block.

Starting on the bank side of the block.

An interesting example of the baked fill used to cover these ovens.


An oven in a slow but inevitable decay.

This section of block disintegrated to the point where there is nothing left but an arch.

It is cool looking though.

A leftover post from an electrical or light pole.

A piece of oven that fell off. In another 25 years what will be left?

Towards the end of the block there is nothing left but the base the ovens sat on.

The other side of the arch.

Half of the oven is gone. But where is all the brick and stone?

An oven just sliding down the hill.

There are only a couple intact ovens on this side of the block.

A small pile of Oliver No. 3's product.

A final look at No. 3 and loading area where the trains used to come through and fill up with coke to feed the mills in Pittsburgh.


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