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Take a Peek Inside the Huber Breaker Ruins

All Photos by Cheri Sundra

Up the Coal Chute

Eleven stories of tar-coated steel, scads of partially dismantled machinery, hundreds of broken steel-reinforced windows and more insight into the ravages of time than you can hope to absorb in one visit make the Ashley/Huber Breaker a popular site for urban explorers in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since closing in 1976, this mammoth structure has had to survive salvage operations, vandalism and Mother Nature, in addition to fears about typical Luzerne County style politics.

When it was built in 1939 to replace an older and out-dated structure, the Huber Coal Breaker was considered a technological marvel. The facility was operated by the Glen Alden Coal Company to process coal from three nearby mines. Seven to ten thousand people have worked at the Huber Breaker sorting, washing and loading 7,000 tons of coal daily into train gondolas.

Long before companies like Nike and Ralph Lauren embraced the color “Pop” merchandising display technique to seduce consumers into buying their products, the Glen Alden Coal Company painted their coal blue as a marketing ploy that resulted in the moniker “Blue Coal Company”.

Because of the decline of the mining industry in the region, the facility was abandoned in 1976. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society was formed in 2001, hoping to turn the location into a local tourist attraction and historical sight. You can read about their current efforts at:
citizensvoice.com/news/huber-breaker-pre servation-society…

Unfortunately, local residents seem to have little confidence that this endeavor will achieve success because the restoration costs are so prohibitive and many doubt that this vision will actually draw additional tourism to the area.

Incidentally, I’ve had conversations with some urban explorers who would like to see the Huber Breaker Preservation Society adopt an Eastern State Penitentiary-esque approach to their efforts to save the Huber Breaker before this structure is forever lost to history.

 

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Cheri Sundra © 2010
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~*~*~*~*~*~*THE KIRBY PARK ZOO RUINS:

Looking for my article about the Kirby Park Zoo?  You’ll have to look for it in the September issue of IndependentNEPA!

Abandoned Zoo Graffiti

Visit my Flickr page for a more detailed look at all of the abandoned zoo ruins at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cheri_sundra/sets/72157624116662929/

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Cheri Sundra © 2010
All Rights Reserved

Post-Apocalyptic Chic Ghost Town: Concrete City, Nanticoke PA

 

By Cheri Sundra

 

Abandoned: 1924

Pictures from June 1 and June 7, 2010

Nanticoke has its own post-apocalyptic-esque ghost town—the only thing missing is the roving band of marauders.  Referred to by some as one of the failed technological experiments in Pennsylvania railroad and coal mining history,  and by others as the first example of modern-day cookie-cutter or tract housing, the Concrete City ruins still stand as a monument to the “company housing” living arrangements experienced by some area workers during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  Described as “virtual villas” by the upper class of coal mining families, these houses were regarded as a futuristic marvel when first constructed.

“Company Housing” in Pennsylvania usually referred to villages comprised of frame-built wooden houses, commonly called “shanties” by county assessors, that were hastily built by industrialist owners for their low-paid employees.  By controlling their housing arrangements, employers maintained more control over the lives of their employees and had more opportunity to exploit workers and their families.  A great example of this “traditional” company town can be seen at Eckley Miner’s Village, located just 9 miles east of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Concrete City is “company housing” with an architectural twist.  The “city” is a very early example of International Style Architecture which is characterized by buildings with rectilinear forms, unadorned of ornamentation or decoration and constructed with steel, glass and reinforced concrete.  This architecture style is a minimalist concept that stresses functionalism.

Pennsylvania railroads were using concrete, a novel building material at the start of the 20th Century, on a wide variety of projects.  Concrete City was built by the Coal Division of D L and W Railroad for employees of the Truesdale Colliery. The homes, which were built in 1911 and opened in 1913, were rented out to a hand-full of their current employees for $8.00 per month. Called the “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” by its designers, the requirements to be met by employees for residency consideration in this cutting-edge, model worker housing community included English as a first language and employment with the company in a position of “high value” such as mine supervisor, foreman or technician.

Concrete City consists of 20 buildings.  Each one was a duplex that housed two families.  Each half of every single standing structure contained a kitchen, living room and dining room downstairs and four bedrooms on the second floor.  Concrete outhouses were constructed behind each house.

All of the houses were arranged around a central plaza that was about the size of a football field which contained a pavilion, baseball field and a tennis court.

There was a wading pool for children and a waist deep, circular swimming pool with constantly flowing water for adults which are said to be the first in-ground pools built in the Wyoming Valley.  The pool was emptied in 1914 after a boy drowned.  Concrete sidewalks illuminated by electric lights and landscaped yards completed the futuristic community.  Concrete City residents were said to be plagued by dampness because moisture constantly seeped thru the porous concrete which led to condensation on the walls.

This is a picture of an item from the archives of the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Eleven years after it’s construction, Concrete City was abandoned because the owners did not want to install an expensive sewer system as required by

Concret City Now

the township in 1924. Ironically, demolition of the modern “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” was halted when it was discovered that the implosion of 100 sticks of dynamite in one of the houses had very little impact.  The concept of demolishing the city made of concrete was deemed too expensive, despite the fact that coal was discovered under the site after it was abandoned.

Currently, many of the structures exhibit fire damage because the Luzerne County Volunteer Fireman’s Association has used Concrete City as a training center.

Despite the fact that it has been designated as an historical site in 1998 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, locals frequently use Concrete City for paint ball games or parties as evidenced by the numerous paint balls and beer cans scattered about the grounds. Graffiti covers all of the buildings throughout the entire abandoned community.

Concrete City ruins photographed on June 1 & June7, 2010

NEED MORE CONCRETE CITY IN YOUR LIFE?

***To see how Concrete City seems to be experiencing new life as a frequently changing urban art gallery, go to Spontaneous Acts of Art–Concrete City Ruins

***Want more in-depth history of Concrete City, with a twist?  Check out   Of Concrete City, Mermaids and the Ghost Town Stairs to Nowhere (Part 1) and  Of Concrete City, Mermaids and Ghosts (both Past & Present) Part 2

***And visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-Movie!

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Cheri Sundra © 2010              
All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Town Graffiti

 

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