June 4, 2018
Lou Huber, Mahanoy City, 2014
St. Nicholas Coal Breaker
The Beginning: Centralia
Centralia was the beginning of my fascination with Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region.
In 2012, I traveled to Centralia to work on a documentary photography assignment during my spring break as a freshman photography student at NYU.
Barack Obama was gearing up for his second election
At eighteen years old, I was fascinated by American iconography and I got what I was looking for.
I’d heard of Centralia years before, did some research, and got in the car early on a cold March morning. I left my cell phone back home in Carversville and hit the highway in my Hyundai Elantra with a stack of mapquest printouts for guidance.
Driving northeast, the suburbs turned to farms which turned to industry as the counties passed: Bucks, Lehigh, Schuylkill, Columbia.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Augustus Salasavicius immigrated from Lithuania to the United States. They settled in Mahanoy City. The name became Savage. Some other things happened, and here we are today.
This project is guided by a desire to understand how my ancestors in the region lived, and what things might be like for me if they never left.
Coaldale & Mother Jones
Coaldale, just outside Lansford, is a small patch town with a distinct identity.
A nearby historical marker commemorates Mother Jones’s march of 2,000 striking miners from McAdoo to Coaldale. The experience is recounted in a section of her autobiography. (PDF via Hazleton Area School District)
colors and lines in ashland and mount carmel
october 2012 • bronica sq • color negative film
Number 9 Coal Mine Museum, Lansford
The Number 9 Coal Mine Museum in Lansford is one of three museums which offer tours of underground coal mines in the region. The others are the Pioneer Tunnel in Ashland and the Lackawanna County Mine Tour in Scranton. The Eckley Miners Village also offers visitors a chance to see a preserved 19th century patch town.
Northeastern Power Cogeneration plant, Audenried
Northeastern Power Cogeneration plant, Audenried PA (outside McAdoo). This power plant burns previously discarded low-quality anthracite coal waste (culm) which is mined on site. Much of the current mining activity in the Anhtracite region employees similar remining techniques.
The 1869 Avondale Mine disaster was a pivotal point in labor history. It inspired some of the first labor unions and workplace safety regulations.
Tunkhannock Viaduct & Nicholson
I visited Nicholson, PA– just north of Scranton– in late October to finally see the famous Tunkhannock Viaduct, originally part of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western system but now owned by Norfolk-Southern.
Superior Coal Prep
I visited the Hegins area on July 2, 2017 in one of my more productive trips to the region. Hegins (pronounced Higgins) is home to some of the last remaining small-scale producers and underground Anthracite mines in Pennsylvania.
Superior operates underground mines and a homebuilt breaker which several small mines use.
Acid Mine Drainage
Eckley Miner’s Village
St. Clair, April 2017
The view from above the Coal Creek Shopping Center, located in a reclaimed strip mine. I shot this on 35mm film with a Canon FTb in April 2017, while I was waiting for a tow truck after my car broke down in the parking lot below.
Knox Mine Disaster Memorial
I attended a memorial event for the Knox Mine Disaster on its 58th anniversary, January 22 2017. The Knox disaster occurred when the Susquehanna river broke through an illegal coal mine tunnel, flooding the extensive network of tunnels under the Scranton area. This event was singlehandedly responsible for killing the Anthracite mining industry in the Northern field (the Scranton & Wilkes-Barre area) and was a significant nail in the coffin for anthracite mining as a whole.
Twelve miners were killed in the disaster.
i love how these images came out…. the film (35mm color slide film) got stuck in the Pakon scanner and made a beautiful accident.
This trailer is parked across the street from the Saint Nicholas Coal Breaker . It bears a fading message “All Gave Some, Some Gave All”
behind the old high school, mahanoy city
Palo Alto (outside Pottsville)
Blaschak Coal plant, outside Mahanoy City
underground in the No. 9 Mine
Interior of the No. 9 Coal Mine in Lansford, PA. Shuttered in 1972 due to plummeting coal prices, the mine was restored as a museum by local volunteers.
thermometer, superior coal prep
If you look closely, these thermometers are everywhere in NEPA.
May’s Drive-In, Ashland PA
Self Portrait, Jim Thorpe
Self Portrait, Jim Thorpe PA. October, 2012.
Mamiya 7 on color negative film
Originally called Mauch Chunk, the town was a transportation hub for coal products on the Lehigh River. In the 1950’s, the town purchased the remains of Native American athlete Jim Thorpe and renamed the town after him.
My car in Jim Thorpe
Wildflowers at the St. Nicholas Breaker
Summer 2017, Fuji Provia 35mm slide film
Flag House, Old Forge PA
This shot is a scan from an 8×10 negative shot with a Deardorff view camera in October 2014. It hasn’t been color corrected yet.
Bronica SQ, color negative film
Most likely 2013
Possibly Jeddo Borough
American flag planted in a large block of anthracite coal
Locust Ridge Wind Farm above an active strip mine
Miner’s boots in a vacant storefront window, Mahanoy City
Behind the St. Nicholas breaker, 2014
Rick Bender leaving work at the Superior Prep Co-Op Breaker
The Kaier Brewery building, October 2016 (a few months before it was demolished).
Byrnesville, a small village adjacent to Centralia was condemned at the same time due to the underground fire.
Bathtub Shrine, Byrnesville, 2014
Graffiti Highway, Centralia (2016)
Inside a crumbling outbuilding in the shadow of the Saint Nicholas breaker (2016)
Highway 61, Centralia
Cracks in the abandoned portion of Highway 61, melted by the Centralia fire. (Digital)
Lackawanna & Susquehanna
The orange water of the Lackawanna River, polluted by acid mine drainage from the Old Forge Borehole, meets the Susquehanna. The Old Forge Borehole is the largest single point source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The Womers were a few of the last die-hard Centralia residents. They’re mentioned in the This American Life episode “Fire” which features a story about Centralia. The house was abandoned in the summer of 2017.
Yuengling Brewery, Pottsville
Coal Keeps The Lights On
A conveyor belt crosses Highway 54 outside Mahanoy City. The lettering was added in 2013.
Blue Mountain from bridge over rail yard, Jim Thorpe.
Coal Creek Shopping Center, St. Clair PA
Spring 2012– my second trip
A bottle of water collected at the Old Forge Borehole
The Old Forge Borehole is the single largest point source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay watershed (via the Susquehanna River)
Centralia Aerial Photos
Old Forge, PA
Shot on 8×10 Large Format film
The Anthracite King from above
Google Earth view of two massive draglines in a strip mine near Jeddo Borough
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Coal Township, January 2018
A strip mine and culm bank tower over the outskirts of Shamokin
Split Vein Coal Company, January 2018
Love Bug, Shamokin, January 2018
RR Coal Co, Lykens PA
Centralia, May 2018
Big Mine Run
Just outside Centralia, May 2018
Park St, Centralia
One of the few remaining homes in Centralia, on Park Street photographed in May 2018. Assembled into a collage from medium format color negatives.
May 2018. The fire department and borough council are still active in a limited capacity. Diptych; Kiev 88cm medium format film camera.
Reading, PA May 2018
Although not part of the Anthracite Region, Reading is a historically important hub for industry and rail transport. Its eponymous railroad rose to prominence by transporting Anthracite from the mines to its north to Philadelphia and other cities. Even before the railroad, the Schuylkill Canal took much the same route.
Big Mine Run – Gilberton Coal
Gilberton Coal lands, Big Mine Run
Shot on Kodak Ektar 25 35mm film expired 1991
The Bear Valley Strip Mine, AKA The Whaleback
Big Mine Run Geyser
Dunking my phone in acid mine drainage at the Big Mine Run Geyser, also known as the Centralia Borehole. This drains a network of abandoned mine tunnels in the hills behind where I’m standing and discharges 9.83 million gallons of water per day. It contributes 17,453 lbs/day acid, along with 858 lbs/day iron and 46,453 lbs/day sulfate to Mahanoy Creek, which drains to the Susquehanna river and then on to the Chesapeake Bay. Mine pools— massive underground reservoirs of water which accumulate in mine tunnels— are a constant presence in the Coal Region. The water dissolves iron in the rocks and becomes acidic, getting its characteristic rust color. Thousands of boreholes, seepages and pumping stations such as this one drain into local watersheds, sending pollution hundreds of miles to the Chesapeake. But if the boreholes were plugged and the pumps shut down, the water would table would rise until all the basements of NEPA were flooded. The only solution is to treat the discharged water, no easy task when the outfall is measured in millions of gallons per day. A number of clever solutions have been devised to effectively treat the waste in perpetuity, but are costly to implement. Organizations like @epcamr are doing amazing work protecting Pennsylvania’s waterways and studying the problem. #coal #america #lookingatappalachia