Sunday, February 5, 2017

Alverton Coke Works/Union Coke Works

Just south of Alverton are the ruins of some more modern "smokeless"coke ovens. The site itself was the location of one the earlier coke plants. Union Coke Works was constructed around 1873 and was operated by Hurst, Stoner & Company. On June 11, 1872 the property, about 51 acres, was purchased from Peter L. Shupe by Braden Hurst, B.B. Stoner, W.B. Neel and Mr. Schall (or Shaw, some reports vary from Schall and Shaw). 30 beehive bank and 40 beehive block ovens were constructed. In 1875 Schall conveyed his interests in the company to the other three and parted ways. When the land was purchased from Shupe, Shupe retained a one fourth undivided interest in the coal. Under this contract 28 ovens were built on the original tract purchased by the company and the other 42 were built on the Shupe tract. The tipple was erected on the Shupe tract and the mine opening was located on the line between the properties. This business was conducted as the Union Coke Works. Shupe was to receive one seventh of the net profits and the other six was divided among the other parties. The business operated in this manner until 1878 when Shupe leased his undivided interest to William J. Rainey. On January 1, 1880 Rainey purchased Shupe's interests outright. On January 15, 1880 Gilbert T. Rafferty and Charles L. Donnelly purchased one half of Hurst, Stoner and Neel's interest. It remained this way until September 30, 1895 with the net profits being divided into seven separate parts. Three shares being paid to Rafferty and Donnelly, one share each to Stoner, Hurst and Neel, and one share in a separate account, first in the hands of Rafferty and Donnelly, then McClure and Company and finally the McClure Coke Company. Rafferty and Donnelly operated the plant until June 1888 when the McClure Coke Company took over. McClure operated the works until October 1, 1895. McClure sold all his interests to the H.C. Frick Coke Co. that same year and Frick and Rainey operated the plant jointly until 1901. In 1901 W.J. Rainey is listed as owning the plant again although he kept his shares throughout the whole process. In 1920 the Alverton Coal and Coke Co. is listed as the operators. 


These ovens would be operated by one firm or another until the 1970's when Oliver K. Painter constructed the MacDonald smokeless ovens. Eight of these ovens were constructed by 1977 and lasted six years until the DEP pulled the plug. Apparently the smokeless ovens weren't smokeless enough. Alverton was allowed to burn one beehive oven as a demonstration at its annual coke festival. 1982 was the last year that was permitted. After this there has been no more coke made in beehive ovens (legally) in the United States. 


Today there are no more beehive ovens left at Union Coke Works.  All that remain are the ruins of the smokeless ovens. They're interesting but they aren't the coke ovens we're used to. 




A photo of the smokeless ovens when they were recently abandoned. They don't look like this anymore. Also note the remaining beehives to the right of the ovens. Those are gone now. The smokeless ovens have two holes in the top. One for charging and one for the chimney structure.

A view from the top of the smokeless ovens. It looks like it was two ovens per chimney. These photos are courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Alverton was once Stonersville. At the bottom right corner of the map you can see the Hurst, Stoner and Co. coal bank. This is the location of Union Coke Works. At the top left you can see the American Coke Works, operated by Samuel Warden which Mary Jane and I covered last spring.


Big empty field above the ovens. Probably where the original block of beehive ovens were located.

Side of the smokeless ovens.

Crumbled ruins of one of the smokeless ovens.

They are different. Pretty cool though.

These are not beehive ovens. They are similar to the Belgian rectangular ovens in a way. The interior is flat and not arched in the middle like the rectangular ovens and there is a wall in the back. They are probably the same length as rectangular ovens.

Two holes in the top. One for charging and one for the chimney.

An interesting feature on the outside. Not sure what is was used for.

Basic trunnel hole.

A bunch of Woodland bricks. Cool but who wants bricks from the 70's?

More intact trunnel hole.

These ovens had to have come with a pretty decent sized price tag.

These blocks are pretty interesting though.

The prize! The top of an old larry car that was used for charging the ovens. Probably dating from the beehive years.

There were numerous potential mine entrances throughout this site. This is one of them.

This is another.

Numerous subsidence holes.

Another potential mine entrance. This could also be leftover from stripping operations that took place here.

And that's Alverton/Union.


  1. Nice pictures thanks good to see some of the old industry that made this area special

  2. These are important ruins. I am glad they survive, even if they are crumbling.

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  4. Fascinating post and wonderful photos. Thank you so much for sharing.