Sunday, March 19, 2017

Three Mon Valley Coke Works

Today we headed down to the Monongahela River Valley to see what was left of the ovens in that area. The sites we visited were Edenborn, Mt. Sterling, and what I believe are the Martin Coke Works. From what I can find, there were two coke works at Martin. There was Martin and there was Geneva. The more I look into it, the more I feel that these might be the same thing. I'll get more into that later. Regardless, the ovens at Martin are one of the best sites I've found so far. 

So let's get right into it.

Edenborn Coke Works


There is not a lot left here at all. There are a handful of ovens, a nice old bridge which I initially thought was mine related, but looking at old aerials it looks like it was an old road bridge. Also looking at the old aerials, it appears that the ovens were reclaimed as far back as 1938. What didn't make sense is that there are huge mine dumps still remaining all over the site. Maybe the ovens were torn out and they continued mining there until later. Or maybe the ovens weren't torn out and are simply buried under one of the dumps. The 1938 aerial does show a lot of mine buildings there at that time. 


1938 aerial showing the Edenborn site.


Portion of the Edenborn mine map showing the location of the ovens.

The Edenborn Coke Works date back to 1900 and were constructed for the American Steel and Wire Company. At its peak it had 500 ovens. Around 1903 the H.C. Frick Coke Company purchased the plant and operated it until at least 1921. At some point, presumably after the ovens went out, the Edenborn Mine was connected with the Gates Mine to use the latter's loadout on the Monongahela River. 

1905 map of the Edenborn layout. From the book "Coke. A treatise on the manufacture of coke and other prepared fuels" 1905, John Fulton.

A couple photos of the mine dumps

It took a while but we eventually found the remains of a few ovens.

This is the best the ovens got. At least there's a little something left. A far cry from 500 though.

The old bridge ruins.

A foundation from one of the mine buildings.

Deck of the old bridge.

Mt. Sterling Coke Works



The Mount Sterling Coke Works have been documented quite a few times online. They're easy to see from the road, but they're on a road that you're not likely to find yourself on. Mt Sterling was a Consolidated Coal and Coke Company operation dating from around 1907. There were 310 ovens throughout the early 1920's. Consolidated always kept the word "consolidated" in their title, but the listings change from Consolidated Connellsville Coke Co. to Consolidated Coke Co. to Consolidated Coal & Coke Co. It's safe to assume they were the same company. I can't find out how long they operated, but the 1939 aerial looks like they were still pretty active.



Today one of those blocks exist. It looks like there's some sort of small sportsmen club behind the ovens. Another odd feature with these ovens is their height. The ovens sit extremely high from the ground. It looks like the ground in front of the ovens was excavated at some point but the retaining walls suggest otherwise. It's a strange setup for sure.

This end especially. These ovens are extremely high.

The end of this block.

On the back side is the shooting range, I think.

Across from the end of the block was a pier from something. Looking at the other posts online, it looks the tipple was on the opposite side so I'm not sure what this pier is from.

Coming back around.

The way this wall looks, it seems like the area was dug out at one time.

There was nothing left completely intact but these are still some decent ovens.

I initially thought this was an end of the block but it looks like these ovens were cleared to make room for a small road through here.

Martin Coke Works


These were the best of the bunch. This site is incredibly intact. There are some really nice ovens but the most impressive feature here is the loading pier. It is full of water now and looks more like a canal but both walls are almost entirely intact. As I stated earlier, the history of these ovens is rough at best. At its peak Martin had 224 ovens.


This is what I gathered so far: 

1904- Constructed by the Bessemer Coke Company

1908- Purchased by the Republic Iron and Steel Company

1916- Purchased by the  McKeefrey Coal Company, name changed to Geneva



I don't understand why Republic would sell this after only eight years. One thing I did find was that Republic had invested in a byproduct coke plant in 1914. Perhaps this and the coke plant at Republic was sufficient. This is all just a theory. Information on Martin or Geneva is next to nothing. 

A portion of the McKeefrey Coal Company's mine map dated 1920, showing the coke works. The ovens we are concentrating on today are the bank and the block to the left. The ovens to the right are very difficult to get to due to site restrictions. There's some sort of company operating at the location and the area is completely gated off.

Right off the bat. This is the first oven we came across, This is a great sign.

Inside the oven.

This is my childhood friend CJ. He wanted to get out of the house for the day.

A few odds and ends.

I'm not sure what this is. It was in the middle of the bank. Perhaps an old bin.

I'm not sure what happened here. Somehow the bricks just turned to dust.

This is exactly what you want to find when exploring coke ovens. Perfect conditions.

Tons of nice ovens.

A look up the loading pit.

Looking across the loading pier. There's another block on the other side.

Looking over at the bank.

Looking down the middle.

There are still some nice ovens in the bank.

This is great!

This one is very nice.

Over at the block. Somebody knocked their way through two ovens.

These are some of the ovens on the block.

Looking back at the bank. These ovens run right below the road.

Look at the size of that poison ivy vine.

Back at the chopped through oven.

Very intact pier wall.

A great site!

Further up the road at Gallatin. The old Consolidated Coke Co's Donald ovens are in the back yards of these houses.

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