Saturday, March 5, 2016

Coke Works- Cheathaven/Lake Lynn, PA

Trying to find the name of these ovens is excruciating. I'm pretty sure these ovens were bought, sold, and renamed quite a few times. Another difficulty is the fact that the town changed its name. The only mine map I can find of this area is not dated but it's listed as belonging to the Fancy Hill Coal Company. The earliest mention I can find of the Fancy Hill Coke Works is from 1916. In 1906 there is an Adah Coal and Coke Company operating in the area with 40 ovens. That fits the description pretty well. In 1924 we find the Marion Coke Works with 60 ovens which is also easily fathomable. To throw another wrench into the works, there is a Marion Coke Works dating from 1901 at the site. No other information is offered about the 1901, it's just on a list and it's not an official document. If I find any more specific information I will update this. I could call them Fancy Adah Marion but for now we'll call them the coke ovens at Lake Lynn.

This is a list of coke works built after 1901 from the book "Wealth, Waste and Alienation" by Kenneth Warren. It's not an official document but most of the research that Warren has done is pretty accurate. The name "Marion" and the location is too much to be coincidental in my opinion. What irks me is that Marion doesn't pop up again until 1924.

Now we get into the name changes of the town itself. In this 1902 topographic map it is listed as "Cheathaven".

However, by 1931 it is Lake Lynn. It's the same place.

This is a section of the undated Fancy Hill mine map. You'll notice there are no ovens shown on this map. This map could really use a date.... Anyway, notice the tipple and the coaling station. Evidence of both these structures exist today in a big way. Today while I was out there I was wondering why it seemed like there were two tipples. Now after looking at the map, it makes sense.

So here's what we got:

Regardless of their name, they are an amazing set of ovens.

Drippy oven catching some sort of runoff. Maybe a spring up above? Regardless it keeps the oven so clean.

This is the worst of the lot. Hard to say what happened here.

Another drippy oven.

Famous Garfield tile block.

Strange stages of decay. Some of this brick looks like it was laid yesterday and some of it is falling apart.

Standing on the coke yard. Siding to the right, railroad bed beyond that and the Cheat River at the far right.

OK. These are the supports for where the tipple would have been. Further up we'll see the walls for the coaling station.

According to the map the tipple was fed from a large conveyor that went far up the hill. We'll climb up there in a bit.

A wall on the end of the bank. The space between the banks is where the tipple was located.

A very interesting pipe running behind the retaining wall of the oven.

Different brickwork than the rest.

Moving along.

Yellow brick!

This oven wall collapsed exposing the beehive.

Another separation in the bank. Here is the location of the coaling station.

Wall of the coaling station and the end cap of the oven bank.

Up on top the ovens. Deer skull?

The back of one of the collapsed oven walls. The fronts of the ovens appear to be such neat masonry work but the backs show the real story. Any loose stone or brick you could get ahold of.

Back to that coaling station. This is the wall behind the ovens.

Beyond that and further up the hill are piers from the coaling station.

Looking down from those piers.

The top of the ovens where the larry track would have been.

Down below again. The ruins of the tipple.

We're going to follow the old railroad a little bit. Heading towards Point Marion.

Another look at the ovens.

Further down is this wooden box culvert that goes underneath the rail bed.

Beyond that we find the slate dump.

Behind it are piers leading up the hill.

A lot of piers leading up the hill.

Off to the side. Ruins of some sort of structure. The map doesn't go down this far.

Of course I had to climb the hill.

Beyond this, down in the valley are some more mine dumps.

This is as far as I went.

Looking down toward the river.

And finally a look at the Lake Lynn hydroelectric dam just a little ways up river.

An awesome old photo from the West Virginia Regional History Center.


  1. love these pix but am curious as to what these ovens were used for and what is a tipple?

    1. Thanks Moe! The ovens were used to make coke which was used for steel making. Coke is basically baked coal where all the impurities (sulphur, ash etc.) are burned off and what remains is pure carbon. Steel's basic ingredients are carbon, iron and lime. You can find these ovens within a 50 miles radius (though mostly southeast) of Pittsburgh and there were tens of thousands of them. A lot are gone but a lot remain. The region was called the Connellsville Coke District and the coal in the area had unique characteristics that made an excellent fuel for steel making. As a result of this and access to the iron around the Great Lakes Region, Pittsburgh became a major steel manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately that's no longer the case with Pittsburgh and way too many people wish to bury that past. The working class neighborhoods are either being eliminated or overpriced to the point that the original residents have to leave. Enough about that. Tipples are those large structures you would picture with traditional coal mining. They're basically structures that would process the coal and then load the trains or barges to send the coal to market.

  2. We were exploring there today! 3,16,2016. Some of the best preserved we've seen, incredible area

    1. That area is amazing. I'll head back. Did you hear all the whistles coming from the dam? I was reading the one sign that listed the codes. They're warnings for boaters. I was over by the ovens and kept hearing strange noises. Definitely a cool place.

    2. We were parked at the fishing tail races below the dam and red lights were flashing warnings an a voice on a loudspeaker at the dam was saying "move away from the water"...crazy. We also found some ovens in Gans along Grassy Run. They were in poor condition but the rail bridges crossing the creek were cool.

  3. Really enjoy your travel logs and pictures. Live in Colorado but grew up in Latrobe Jeff Berkosky

  4. Yu should def check out the old mine colliery down duck hollow across from sandcastle. Theres a giant tipple on the mon with a tunnel yu cant miss email me if yu are interested

  5. Yu should def check out the old mine colliery down duck hollow across from sandcastle. Theres a giant tipple on the mon with a tunnel yu cant miss email me if yu are interested

    1. No kidding. I didn't realize that. Thanks, I'll go check it out.

  6. go to pa state campus uniontown library coal musem i donated map fancy hill coal lot of info cheat haven was changed after dam was built to lake lynn after the engineer on dam there is plackerd at bottom of dam the ovens was owned by borts coal paul borts was one owner in 1950 coal was brought across river on cable cars also one at nilan the tiples were one to load coal cars the small one was to coal up steam engines the cement piers going up the hill was for a belt that brought coal down to the tiples from fancy hill it was the eagle coal co earlier when they shut down three of my relatives bought it and changed name to fancy hill