SHOAF, PA


As one of the last beehive coke yards in the nation to close, Shoaf, PA has been well documented. Basically what happened is that the Menallen Coke Company was still operating these ovens at a profit in 1972, but the state closed them down because they couldn't comply with new clean air standards. In this snapshot, the tipple that was brought over from the Anthracite fields is on the left, a piece of vintage strip mining equipment is in front of it, a machine shop is behind it, and the coke ovens are to the right. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


Larry cars still sitting on top of the Shoaf coke ovens were probably left there the day the coke works shut down. Shoaf was named after the family that Frick purchased the land from. An email from Gail reads, "I have been to Uniontown several times (my father`s birth place). Also went to see Shoaf -land once owned by my grandparents. Met a very nice lady there who was very informative." (Nov. 2002 image by author)


A coke extractor sits in ruins at Shoaf, PA. Menallen Coke Co. bought the Shoaf mines from H.C. Frick Coke Co., who built the operation and patch town in 1904. This is one of the few patch/coal mine/coke works that Frick actually built, as he usually just took over existing operations. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


The coal mine at Shoaf closed in 1951, but the coke ovens operated much longer. As this photo illustrates, the coke ovens at Shoaf are probably the best preserved in all of western Pennsylvania. There is one bank of ovens and one block (2 sided) of ovens there. The larry car track is still on the block ovens. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


This is the "baghouse" that Menallen Coke Co. installed in the early 1970's in a vain attempt to meet clean air standards. According to Max Nobel, when Harrisburg saw that this baghouse actually worked, they then came out with stricter clean air laws. Nobel then threw in the towel. Fayette County still lists the owner of the property as Menallen Coke Co. (Nov. 2002 image by author)


The larry car tracks on top of the ovens at Shoaf. (Historic American Engineering Record image)


Coke that was never shipped still lying around at Shoaf in 1993 (Image courtesy Coal and Coke Heritage Center, Penn State Eberly campus)


Sam contributes this photo of a sealed manway portal at Shoaf. He says this "is the slope portal at Shoaf that is sealed, the date reads 1905 and the squares say Cornish Brothers Contracting of Uniontown, PA. It appears this was a manway entrance as there are no coal car unloading faciltities and the headhouse is built right over the portal. Also just a word of caution to anyone there. The sealed portal I found is in a building and the roof looks like it'll fall any day now." (Image courtesy of Sam Baker)


Also Sam took this photo of the detail on the manway portal. He writes, "Why doesn't the state or feds come in and restore or at least buy Shoaf? That place is absolutly amazing." (Image courtesy of Sam Baker)


Some of the coal patch housing at Shoaf. Noreen writes, "I was born in ... 1943 in Shoaf, Pa. My father was an electrician at the Shoaf facility. We lived in a 3-room house (owned by Frick) just a short walk through the woods from the power house. The power house was within 50 feet of the stable where 2 horses were kept. I remember them for a short time then they were gone. Guess new technology came into being. In the summer, my brother, sister and I, we would walk through the woods and take my father's lunch to him. He would paint faces on burned out light bulbs and push them into the dirt hill across from the power house for us to find. I must have been 3 or 4 years old. That was a lot of fun for us. The tipple was down over the hill and several times my father took us down there. There wasn't a super's house in Shoaf but there was one in Smiley. Just a short distance from the Shoaf company store. It was on a knoll and of course, the nicest house in the patch. I have many fond childhood memories of Shoaf and Smiley. When I speak of going to sleep at night watching the light from the coke ovens, my friends have no idea what I am talking about. And that makes me feel privileged." (Nov. 2002 image by author)


Noreen contributes this vinatage photo taken in the Shoaf patch and writes, "Here is my great grandmother, Annie, and my father. Dad was born in August 1904 so he was 8 in this picture. Behind them, you can see the Shoaf houses. This house may be still standing - I'm not sure."

Noreen also contributed all of the following photographs. The captions are her comments.


"These are the Shoaf coke ovens ... I don't know why they are idle. The picture was taken probably mid 1930s."


"This is a generator house [fan house] that was located at the bottom of the dirt road I lived on and was within 500 feet off of the road that ran between the company store and mine. I believe this may still be standing."


"This is our house and where myself, brother, and sister were born. The picture was taken about Summer of 1942...This was a 3-room house. This house and the other bungalows were located on the same road as the generator house...Mom had told me they paid $7.00 a month rent. There were about 4 of them on our road. Most of the houses in Shoaf were tyhpical of the ones on the Main Street that are still standing. There was a hand pump in the kitchen and a coal/wood burning cook stove. There was no bathroom, of course, but you can see the outdoor toilet in the back. We took our bath in a galvanized rub and in the summer it was a great treat to get our bath on the back porch. Also easy for Mom to dump the dirty bath water. We moved from Shoaf in the summer of 1950..."


"This is my father before becoming an electrician. This picture is about mid 1930s. This was taken in a mine-either Shoaf, Bumblebee, or Hope." (Image courtesy of Noreen)


A view of the Shoaf coal and coke plant, probably from the 1940s. Note the large stock of mine timbers. (Image courtesy Coal and Coke Heritage Center, Penn State Eberly campus)


In 2009 I revisited Shoaf and found the larry cars still sitting on the ovens like I found them seven years ago. Unfortunately, the vegetation is really overtaking the site. (Apr. 2009 image by author)


Photo showing, from left to right, an old piece of equipment that I forgot to identify, the tipple, and a shop building that may have been built in the 1950s or else during the Noble era. (Apr. 2009 image by author)


More cinderblock shop buildings and the tipple. (Apr. 2009 image by author)


Birds eye view of the tipple. (Apr. 2009 image by author)

Also Lou contributed this incredible video of the coke ovens in operation at Shoaf.

In "The Early Coke Worker" by Dennis Brestensky there is an interview with Max Nobel about coke making at Shoaf. Some of the comments made by Mr. Nobel are, "...the Shoaf plant coult turn out 300,000 tons of coke a year ... Our 96-hour coke began as a harder structure coke. The foundry just wanted to burn for 96 hours ... we used to make a coke oven that was 120 hours and that would hit us with the holidays. We would make that coke separately for special customers who were looking for that. We would call them up and say we will have maybe 500 tons of coke for this holiday and are you still interested, and they would say , 'Yeah.' ... We mixed different grades of coal ... One came from southern Indiana County. That was 24 percent volatile and [Connellsville] coal is almost 31 volatile ... The foundry coke is rather hard to make. They used to make foundry coke in this area by taking the middle of the oven and pulling it out and putting it into a separate car; that required a certain amount of porosity ... Beehive coke has certain things about it that you can't get in a by-product oven."


Bird's eye view of Shoaf with the tipple in the upper left, rows of coke ovens in the upper right, and part of the Shoaf patch in the lower right. As can be plainly seen, the vegeatation growing on the ovens is out of control and will eventually destroy them. (Image by others)

From the March 4, 1970 Pittsburgh Press: "Air Pollution Orders Given - the state Health Department's bureau has issued abatement orders to the Menallen Coke Co., Georges Twp., Fayette County, and the New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co., Bedford County. Menallen Coke was told yesterday to install control equipment on 200 beehive ovens at its Shoaf plant by June 15."


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