Huber Breaker Ruins: The Art of Industrial Decay
***Every photo also serves as a link to more of each photographer’s work
Existing in a state of ruin and completely stripped of all functionality, the Huber Breaker looms over the bleak landscape of Ashley, Pennsylvania, a monument of the industrial revolution reduced to a useless scar, blighting the landscape. A detritus of a bygone way of life, it has the power to tell us things about the past, while existing very much in the present.
The Huber Breaker, a facility created for literally breaking chunks of coal into smaller bits, is a decaying piece of infrastructure from an industry that built an entire region. Today the deafening noises and the human element of its function have been replaced by silence and total desolation as the abandoned breaker sits brooding on the landscape, now a decaying tomb in the post-industrial world. Amazingly, it almost resembles something from a sci-fi movie set, in defiance of the fact that the machinery became outdated decades ago.
History tells us that the breaker’s windows were designed for maximum use of sunlight, yet today the structure remains characteristically dark and somber, creating a compelling atmosphere for the photographers stopping by to ponder the passage of time and to bear witness to the slow destruction of this forsaken structure left behind by a long defunct enterprise.
Machines often have a steampunk quality that can fuel the artistic imagination while the setting is comprised of titanic spaces that lend themselves to appearing like majestic ruins full of twisted metal and distant vanishing points.
Blight itself can inspire all kinds of emotions in people because it is a display of failure that gives voice to the darker aspects of our communities. It can be shocking to directly confront the kind of neglect that sets in when the bottom falls out of a region’s economy. You are forced to realize that an industry once thrived at that location, generating wealth and opportunity for a privileged few, and all that remains for the community today is a massive hulk of neglect and decay, asking why the real estate that it stands on isn’t even valuable enough to warrant redevelopment.
The obligatory history:
The Huber Breaker opened in 1939 to meet the bustling needs of the Anthracite coal industry and was able to process 7,000 tons of coal daily. The company dyed the coal a blue color as a branding gimmick and it was advertised as “Blue Coal”. When demand for the mining industry declined, the facility closed in 1976. Since that time, it has been left abandoned and open to vandals and scrappers.
“This coal breaker, along with many others, is very special to me. They capture “Americana” at its best. The American Heartland could not be represented without these industrial backbones of our past. They represent to me the men and women that labored here. Our cities were and still are built on coal and steel. One image cannot even begin to capture the hard labor our forefathers put into pioneering the industrialization of America as we know it.”~~ Geo Romolo
“As a child growing up in the Wyoming Valley, the heart of the northeastern coal region, I always wondered while passing by that gargantuan structure on the highway what it would have been like to work there, or even be inside such a massive place. It wasn’t until I was older that I had an opportunity to step inside and take a look for myself. At that point in time the breaker had seen better days; the floors were starting to cave and the windows were mostly broken. However, I really enjoyed exploring the breaker for various reasons, the most significant being the fact that it was such an integral part of the community where I grew up and its demise left the area and its occupants depressed. It is rich in history and that is why I enjoy photographing and documenting these forgotten places.”~~Jenn O’Malia
“The Huber Coal Breaker was the first stop on our adventure this week and what a beauty it was! ….This location is a bit unsafe because of the broken stairs and hanging debris, but we made our way up through the maze of death as I like to call it! The more time we spent in the Huber the more there was to shoot.” ~~Scott Frederick Photography Blog
I was recently interviewed for an article about the Kirby Park Zoo Ruins:
Cheri Sundra © 2012
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