Old industry of southwestern pennsylvania pike mine and coke works

Today I had an unexpected chance to get a little pre-coke oven season action in! I had a job to do in the Pike patch near Brownsville and took the opportunity to take a look around. I had been aware of the possibility of some ovens remaining from the Pike Coke Works but never had a chance to go take a look. The hard part was finding any history about these ovens. I kept hitting a brick wall. The Pike Mine itself was listed in mining reports from 1901 on, but the ovens don’t show up until 1919. Even after that, they appear to operate sporadically at best. The photos of the ovens are not the best. I wasn’t planning on doing this today and only had a cell phone with me. The sun actually decided to shine and it was directly behind the ovens the entire time.

I finally lucked out and the sun tucked itself behind a cloud for about 45 seconds. I’m not about to complain about a sunny day though… these leaves cannot fall off the trees fast enough however. This is going to be a great season. The Pike Mine was listed as a new mine in 1901. The People’s Coal Company of Pittsburgh would operate this mine until 1912 when it is listed as "abandoned indefinitely". It is still listed in 1913 and 1914 but no stats appear. In 1915 and 1916 it is not listed at all. In 1917 it is listed as reopened by the Diamond Coal and Coke Company. Diamond planned to hold onto it for awhile and sunk a bunch of money into the mine. They added tracks and improved the ventilation, among other things. In 1919, 50 coke ovens appear! It wasn’t until 1920 that they were fired however. Then in 1921, the ovens went cold. In 1922, 42 ovens were once again burning. Sporadic at best. Sometime between 1922 and 1927 ownership was transferred to the Hillman Coal and Coke Company. Some reports list Hillman as the operators as far back as 1921 however. This leads me to believe that Hillman had his hand in this the whole way back to Diamond. Anyway, Hillman Coal and Coke would operate Pike Mine until January 1945 when the mine was worked out and sealed. How long the ovens were used is anybody’s guess. Today, Pike is a nice quiet community. The neighborhood is clean and the properties are well kept. It seems like a really nice place to live. Even the township supervisor stopped over to say "Hi" (I think he was just being nebby), and told me some Navy stories. Thank you for your service sir! You’re still running a tight ship.

Photo that explains itself. Courtesy of Dana Burke. Dana also sent me a really nice paper on what it was like growing up in the Pike/Century area. Incidentally, the house I was working on today is the white house, middle right. It’s a duplex in this photo but I think all the houses in Pike are single family homes now.

Thanks to Dana’s photo, these abutments just outside of Pike now make sense. You can see the bridge in Dana’s photo at the very bottom. That bridge crossed this cut for the Monogahela Railroad to serve the ovens at Pike. Mary Jane is in the photo taken from our last trip to Century.

Looking down the old railroad right of way (Matteo Street). The remaining ovens are at the end of the street. During the time that this was an active coke plant, the ovens would have probably lined the entire street. You can see some small stone walls that were probably constructed using the old stone from the ovens.