Sunday, January 31, 2016

United No. 1 Coke Works - United, PA

These are some old ones. United No. 1 dates back to 1881 and was constructed by the United Coal and Coke Company of Greensburg. There were 300 ovens from the beginning and this remained the number throughout the 1800's. Toward the end of 1885 or the beginning of 1886 the H.C. Frick Coke Company had taken control of the coke works. By 1901 there were 350 ovens. It would remain at 350 for the rest of its existence. Frick pulled the plug on the operation at the end of 1930.


At one point there were two separate banks (one with 41, now gone, and another with 49 that remains) and two blocks of 109 and 101 ovens. This would have been the initial layout of 300 ovens. The blocks sat where there is now an empty field below the ovens of the existing bank. The 41 oven bank sat closer to United Road where the tipple and shaft were also located. The 50 additional ovens were built at the northeast end of the tract on the other side of the 49 oven bank. This long bank is what remains today.



 1939 aerial showing the layout of United No. 1

 The blocks and the bank of 41 ovens have been gone since at least 1967. 

Portion of the mine map showing the two blocks and the shaft.

Portion of the mine map showing the remaining 99 ovens.

Today the ovens that remain are in really bad condition. It is possible that 99 of the bank ovens remain but they are so severely deteriorated that it would be next to impossible to count them. The remaining ovens sit unusually high on the side of the hill. The areas that have been reclaimed either changed the landscape or this section may have been stripped. Some of this area is posted against trespassing and lists US Steel as the land owner. The only reason I can think of that US Steel would still be holding onto the land is there must be considerable coal reserves remaining. If that's the case then it must not have been stripped and the unusually high ovens might be the result of partial reclamation. 

Anyway, here's what's left today.

This is the condition of most of the remaining ovens.

There are small sections of wall remaining here and there.

This unusual brick thing really stood out.

I'm not sure what it is.

There was no shortage of fallen trees all over the remaining ovens.

This is what I mean by them sitting unusually high.

A nice piece of stone wall remaining.

More fallen trees.

An unusual piece of wall remaining.

This could be the split between the 50 and 49 ovens. I remember thinking it looked strange but didn't realize there were two sections until I got home and looked at the mine map.

These are the abutments for the railroad bridge crossing Sewickley Creek. This was called the Bessemer Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It branched off of the Sewickley Branch below United. After it left United it branched into two sections near where Fairgrounds Road is. One section went up to Trauger and terminated there. The other went up to Humpreys, through Pleasant Unity and ended in Marguerite.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Love Coke Works, Unity Township PA

The Love Works is located right near the border of Mount Pleasant and Unity Township. After looking at township maps, the coke ovens are definitely in Unity Township. It took a long time to figure out what the Love Coke Works actually were. Almost everybody who mentioned or documented the eight Helen ovens along Sportsmen Road called them the Love ovens. After exploring the Helen ovens a couple weeks ago and researching them it turned out that the Love ovens were something entirely different. But where were the Love Coke Works? After looking at maps of the Mutual mine I discovered a tract of land west of the Mutual mine that is listed as belonging to a Benjamin L. Love.


Mutual mine map detailing the Love tract.


This seemed like a good place to start. Next I looked at the area from a 1939 aerial photo. I noticed a row of coke ovens in the Love tract.


1939 aerial photo detailing the Mutual area.


Now we were on to something! Next I checked a modern terrain map and noticed a clear disturbance in the landscape that indicated the ovens were still here.


Modern terrain map of the Mutual area.


Next I located where the ovens would be on a modern birds-eye view map and determined the ovens would be located in a grove of trees off a gas road near what used to be the railroad spur that served the ovens. The ovens were served by a spur off the Brinker Run Branch that served the Mutual Coke Works. The Brinker Run Branch was itself another branch off the Sewickley Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Modern map showing the location of the Love Coke Works.

When we went out there today this is what we found.


The remains of the Love Coke Works.



There is not a lot of information available about the Love Coke Works. We know that there were 32 merchant ovens, they were operated by the Connellsville-Mutual Coke Company of Scottdale, PA, and the superintendent of the mine was none other than Samuel Lohr who owned the eight Helen coke ovens on his farm right down the hill. 


Samuel Lohr.


The earliest mention I could find of the Love Coke Works was in the June 3, 1909 list of coke ovens in the Connellsville District. After that I found occasional mentions of the plant until 1919 when it seems like they just disappeared from record. Whether or not they were used after this, I'm unable to tell at this time.


What's left of the Love Coke Works.

None of the fronts of the ovens remain. However, all of the ovens that were ever here still remain. This was a single bank of ovens.

Standard view through the trunnel hole.

The inside.

Inside looking out.

Here and there were bits and pieces of the original stone walls of these ovens. This is a nice section.

A view from the top.

Looking down from the top. The next level down where John is standing is the coke wharf. The level below it was where the railroad spur was that loaded the coke to take it to whatever mill or foundry they were selling to.

A very intact beehive. Where the beehive coke oven got its name.


Perfectly intact beehive.


Perfect example of a beehive oven.

A turkey feather on a stick. There were turkey tracks everywhere on this hill.

Another good view of the ovens, the coke wharf and the railroad area.

A pier between the ovens that supported the track for the larry cars that charged the ovens.

Nice section of wall.

This is one end of the bank.

A look at the barn from the old Lohr Farm.



Here's a nice video of our trip today.