Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Hollywood Theater, California, PA.

From a calender I bought a few years back

So it's January 31st,  and 63 degrees in SWPA.  This is really unheard of. I'm outside on the deck typing this in, it's still so nice out.  Anyway, Chip and I decided to get out in this fantastic weather and scope  out future exploration sites.  Danielle had to work on this fine specimen of a day and we felt truly bad about this, so we went up to Elco PA and had a nice meal and beer at the always scenic High Point bar to make us feel better.

Wonderful view from the High Point bar

We decided to leave via California, PA and drove through town and noticed something odd.  They were in the process of taking down the old Hollywood Theater.  Now, I went to Cal U back in the late 80's and early 90's and I have never remembered this theater to have been open.  So  did a quick internet search of this place.  I found this little description in Cinema Treasures

  This theater was opened in July 1938 of concrete block construction, and had a 999 seating capacity, all on a stadium plan. Operated into the late-1960’s with the last regular operater being the Friedlander family. Opened several times for concerts or late night showings on an irregular basis during the early-1970’s.
Last opened late-1970’s for a two year stretch or so. Closed in early-1978, and all seats and equipment removed in the 1980’s. Basement housed a bowling alley which was open to the late-1980’s until being flooded. Attached storefront now a florist shop. Marquee still on building."
 "Ulu Grossbard’s STRAIGHT TIME starring Dustin Hoffman was the last film to play. "

Borrowed this image from above source, c. 1975

Below are a few pictures of the theater coming down.
Close to 1975 view, but today

So Chip walked on up to the door and peered through a small opening and quickly declared  "lets head around back"!  What he noticed while I was snapping pictures, was light seeping through the hole.....A clue to what was around back.

Chip noticed the multicolored 1970's era plastic bowling alley seats in the basement (item described not pictured, sold separately) and was very correct as this being used as a bowling alley once


If you plan a visit, I suggest go quickly!

Further reading....here, at the Friends Of The Hollywood Theater FB site, but it's a little to late now....

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hoover Coke Works - Hoover, PA

The Hoover Coke Works are located near McClellandtown, PA. At its peak, the Hoover Coke works had 196 working ovens. The adjacent patch town of Hoover is quite small – so small, in fact, that it never even had a company store. The coke works were initially owned by the James H. Hoover Company of McClellandtown but were later operated by the Pennsylvania Coal Company. The Hoover Coke Works shut down just short of the 1960s.  
What’s left now are the bank ovens – the rest of the ovens have been demolished. The leftover coke ovens are strangely elevated above ground – this is because the area where the workers would normally stand was excavated to make room for vehicles as they reclaimed the slate dump. Towards the end of the ovens, near the remains of the waste pile, is a block room where supplies were likely stored.
Now, as the ovens are slowly decaying into the ground and the bricks that made up the outer facing disintergrate, the ovens are an interesting way to see the construction of a beehive oven. While a beehive oven is still intact, its hard to see why they are referred to as beehive ovens - after all, the just look like long blocks. But as the bricks crumble, you can see the beehive shape of the actual ovens.

Entering Hoover

The Hoover patch

One oven intact, another decaying

The stone wall on one side of the ovens

View through the top of the oven
The elevated ovens

As the brick facing decays and falls, you can see the inner beehive

Another view of the construction of the beehive inside

This one has fallen apart so much there is daylight between facing and oven

An almost intact oven

The brick insides of the oven spilling out

Decaying brick

Another oven in a state of decay

The supply room

What's left of the waste pile
The coke works

Monday, January 23, 2012

Visits: Margaret Mitchell & the Crucible Ferry

At SWPARE our goal is to record our local history and tell the stories behind the places we show.  What's the point in posting a picture of something or somewhere if you don't know the significance behind it? Most of the time we rely on our friends, families, and neighbors to pass down the history of the area.  Sometimes, it is left to speculation or a story that isn't 100% accurate.  Thats ok, though. We like doing a little detective work and seeing what we can learn.  It builds character.

If you have been following the blog for any amount of time, you've heard (or read) me drone on about the Nekoda, aka the Crucible Ferry.  I vaugley remember the ferry as a child and am unsure if I ever crossed on it.  Recently, after posting some pictures of the ferry provided by the Begovich family, the conversation started as to the current location of the Nekoda.  We heard that it was scrapped for metal, removed for restoration and in a museum.  We heard the deck was salvaged and being used by the salvage company and we heard it was now a boat launch near Pittsburgh  .So, being the inqusitive kids we are...we figured we would go straight to the source...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shoaf Coke Works. Last of the beehive coke ovens. Shoaf, PA Fayette County

Larry cars left on top of the oven banks

A few days ago, Danielle and myself took a drive from Greene County, PA, over the river to the Shoaf Coke Works in Fayette County.  As you look at our blog posts, coke ovens are really nothing out of the ordinary in SW PA.  We even have one in Greene County at the Poland Coke Works.  

The larry cars today....

....and then.  (photo courtesy Lost Monongahela)

What makes the Shoaf Coke Works unique is the fact that it was the last operating, profitable beehive  coke oven in the United States. Shoaf started out as a coal mine and ceased mining in 1951, but remained coking until 1972.
 Menallen Coke Co. bought the Shoaf mines
 from H.C. Frick Coke Co., who built the operation and patch town in 1904.

Oven banks now

...and from the 1930's (photo courtesy coalcampusa.com)

The old mine  (from Coalcampusa.com)

Shoaf could not meet the new clean air standards being imposed upon the country. Pollution control devices were installed and worked, but the rules kept changing.  Even though profitable, it was forced to shut down. 
 It was once said that this is the best preserved coke ovens in the nation, as they basically walked away from the operation, leaving everything as it was,  but 40 years of abandonment are taking their toll.  Another business has moved into part of the location and the area is now heavily posted, except around the point we went in. 

The historical video below shows Shoaf, probably in the 1950's, operating at full steam

What I find interesting about this video is that at around the 40 second mark, we stood under the bridges where the larry cars were crossing and took the following picture, albeit 50 some years later....

I have heard that this place is on the historic register from some people, but I have also read that the current owners plan on razing the whole thing to strip mine the coal below the site.  So I guess its future is undecided.

Below are some images we took on our walk around this massive site, that grey, wet day.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Inside of the tipple

tipple machinery

Look at the cart in this shot from 2 years ago....

...and it was gone this visit.

The tipple in the background was brought in from the anthracite coal fields in the  early 1960's and reassembled here.

The early bagger, or pollution control device on the left

You can see this old extractor in operation on the video above
The old coke extractor sits rusting away near the ovens.

Larry car elevated tracks


More old equipment, just left behind.

Railroad car dated from the 1930's

Ladders to the larry car tracks

I see these Garfield bricks at a lot of oven locations.

These pipes collected the smoke and ran it to the bagger pollution control area.  I heard it worked, but the EPA changed the rules after they saw that it functioned.

Coke extractor machinery.

Bags of graphite.

Tipple control box.