Saturday, March 4, 2017

Genuine/Park Hill Coke Works - Waltersburg, PA

Finding these was pretty much an accident. I was looking for the Edna Coke Works in Waltersburg and thought I pretty much nailed the location by using terrain maps and following an old railroad spur. When I went out there and found the ovens I thought that was pretty much it. The whole time, however, something wasn't sitting right with me. This is a small area. Edna, at it's peak had 150 ovens. There was no way to fit 150 ovens anywhere in this location. I checked a couple other maps and came across "Genuine". I researched Genuine in Waltersburg and came across Park Hill. Some reports call these ovens Genuine Coke Works and others call them Park Hill Coke Works. All reports list this plant with 58 ovens which is spot on for this site. The company that operated the plant was the Genuine Connellsville Coke Company. They were probably first fired sometime in 1907. 


Martin F. Pickard incorporated this company January 1, 1907 along with two other companies, the Perry Coke Company and the Champion Connellsville Coke Company. Pickard was a long running coke man, beginning his career with E.M. Ferguson and Company before moving onto the McClure Coke Company. When McClure was absorbed by the H.C. Frick Coke Company, Pickard served as a superintendent for Frick until 1902. After this, he relocated to West Virginia and served as General Manager for the Federal Coal and Coke Company. Two years later, he returned to Pennsylvania and worked as superintendent for the Central Connellsville Coke Company. Pickard was born November 30, 1865 in Armstrong County and died May 2, 1935 in Connellsville.


There's no telling how long this plant operated, the last mention that I could find was 1922. They were definitely out of business by November 1934, because Genuine was suing the land owner, who they leased the mine land from, because he pulled up all the tracks and sold them for scrap. 65 tons of scrap! Just try taking 65 tons of railroad track to a scrap yard today.



Uniontown Morning Herald November 10, 1934


1939 aerial of Waltersburg showing the locations of the two coke plants. This was before modern day Route 51 bisected the town.

So what's left now? This is a really unique site. It's both incredibly hidden and extremely accessible. There are your typical beehives with the front's missing, but there are also a handful of really nice, fully intact ovens. Also remaining is a very nice intact section of the loading pier retaining wall. There is a really deep railroad cut from where the spur came through. Another plus, this site is not completely overgrown and I didn't even have to take my jagger cutters out of my pocket. Nice site, nice sunny day, could have been warmer, you can't have it all.



Immediately after passing through the spur cut, the ovens started appearing.

Looking out. You can tell how not overgrown this site is.

A nice section of wall remaining. Funny thing is, as I walking back to my truck on Bolden Road, I saw a nice old house with a nice stone wall that looked very much like this stone. This was commonplace. Huge cut stones from iron furnaces and canal locks have become barn foundations. Retaining walls from coke ovens have become retaining walls for houses. It's quality cut stone.

Here's the nice section.

And then it ends.

Another small section of retaining wall.

This is down in the loading wharf. This wall is incredibly intact. This is an extremely rare find. These are usually the first to disappear.

Looking up through the pit. This is where the trains would be backed into and loaded with coke.

Pier wall and ovens above it. This is a seriously nice site.

This is the deep cut for the railroad spur.


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