Huber Breaker Ruins: The Art of Industrial Decay

***Every photo also serves as a link to more of each photographer’s work

Photographer Scott Frederick, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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.   

Photographer Jamie Clarke (aka RiddimRyder), Ontario, Canada

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  Today the deafening noises and the human element of its function have been replaced by silence and total desolation as the abandoned breaker sits brooding on the landscape, now a decaying tomb in the post-industrial world.  Amazingly, it almost resembles something from a sci-fi movie set, in defiance of the fact that the machinery became outdated decades ago.

Photographer Dawn Robinson—Baltimore, Maryland

Photographer Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Photographer Enrico Fiore

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.   

Photographer Enrico Fiore

Photographer Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Photographer LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73) with model Nicholas Bishop Michael of Model Mayhem #1634905

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. 

Photographer Jenn O’Malia—Groton, Connecticut

Photographer Dawn Robinson—Baltimore, Maryland

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.

Photographer LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73) with model Nicholas Bishop Michael of Model Mayhem #1634905

Photographer Cheri Sundra

 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. 

Photographer Geo Romolo, Toronto, Ontario

“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  

Photographer Jim Cook, Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania

“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

Photographer Jenn O’Malia—Groton, Connecticut

Photographer Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Photographer Dawn Robinson—Baltimore, Maryland

Photographer Cheri Sundra

Photographer Katherine Rogers (aka Dilated Pupil) , Tattoo Artist, Reading, Pennsylvania

“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

A Christo-esque Breaker Moment: I can’t help but wonder if this was a leftover background embellishment from a photo shoot, just a prank or was someone trying to make an artistic statement?~~Cheri Sundra


I was recently interviewed for an article about the Kirby Park Zoo Ruins:

Times Leader


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Cheri Sundra © 2012
All Rights Reserved

  1. Fascinating! Too much for one sitting I will be enjoying the works of so many others for some time.

  2. Thank you for all of your hard work on this post and for including me Cheri. Great photographs by everyone!

  3. I must make a trip here this year.. we should set up a Photo Meetup!

    • Frank
    • March 23rd, 2012


    Somewhere in my entropic garage, I have a bunch of blueprints of the Huber’s underground mining operations. Must do something with them someday! There are historical societies, and then there as historical societies, if you get my drift!

    • Jan Kubicki
    • March 24th, 2012

    The Huber Breaker was built in the 50’s. It was THE state of the art in mining technology. I often drove through it when my father, a coal man (he delivered coal that he loaded in his truck at the breaker to customers all over the Wyoming Valley). The truck passed through a tunnel on one side and stopped when it reached the size of coal the customer had ordered (pea and chestnut are the only sizes I can remember). My father would open a chute and the coal would pour down into the truck. His truck held three tons, enough to last most customers for months. The coal was wet from being washed and sometimes dyed blue (blue coal was a marketing scam that added nothing to the mix). I winter it frequently froze in the upper bins and he’d have to crawl up with a shovel to break the jam up loose. I wrote a novel, Breaker Boys, that was published in 1986. At the time there was little interest in preserving the coal mining history of the Valley. I wrote a lengthy article in the Times Leader, the local newspaper, suggesting that the preservation of the Breaker could be a financial engine that would boost tourism. I even proposed the production of an epic play on the grounds of the breaker, much like the ones down south in Virginia (The Lost Colony) and other states, which are huge moneymakers, as well as sources of education and human interest. None of the mucky mucks I took the proposal to — the President of the local power company, the President of Wilkes College, and others — had the slightest interest. Wilkes College later took information in my proposal about the extraordinarily detailed maps of the mines that Glen Alden kept (they were considered by those in the know as works of art), and finagled their way into getting ownership of them. The breaker at that time was thought to be too new to be added to the landmarks register. Even at 60 years of age it may be “not significant” for preservation. One day it will be imploded, and everyone in Wilkes-Barre will anguish over its demise.

    • Hi Jan,

      I’m not really into coal mining history, but I believe that one would have been built just before the start of the 1900s on this site. Then that one was replaced by the current structure in 1939.

      The first rule of urban exploration is a lot like Fight Club…you don’t talk about that either! 😉 But that being said, people obviously are going there! Anyone considering exploring the breaker should be aware that they are doing so at their own risk—it is dangerous and they would be trespassing. Personally, I don’t recommend going there, sections of the structure are dangerously unstable….

      • If you are not really into coal mining history why are you disputing facts with someone who seems much more knowledgeable than you and is a published author? Maybe you should do a little more research first and enlist the help of those who have a spent lot more time researching?

      • I do research about each structure that I photograph. I know that they had the facts about the structure incorrect—I did check with a local historian prior to posting my response. Thanks for your concern!

  4. I can see the enthusiasm within all of the photographs!

    • Annie
    • April 16th, 2012

    It’s not the only breaker, there’s the old St. Nicholas breaker outside Mahoney City. An absolutely amazing place, I visited last week. Wish I could have spent more time there,but still got lots of shots. You should write about that breaker too.

    • Paul
    • May 14th, 2012

    The Huber Breaker was named after my Great Grandfather, Charles F. Huber, who started out working in the anthracite mines, became an engineer, and rose through the ranks of the Glen Alden Coal Company to become its CEO.

  1. August 14th, 2012
    Trackback from : Cassie

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