At least three coal mining towns were located in the Alverton area: Alverton, Donnelly, and Mayfield. Alverton was also once known as Stonerville (like Zimmerman and Grimm a popular name in the area). There were five coke oven operations in this area in the 1890s. The Mayfield works contained 104 ovens, and Donnelly 254 ovens. The Union coke works were comprised of 10 ovens. This is the same site where the coke works that closed in 1982 later sat, although those ovens were built in the 1970s. The Southwest No. 4 works of the Southwest Connellsville Coal & Coke Co. was next to Alverton. (Southwest No. 1 & 2 were at nearby Morewood; No. 3 was at Tarrs.) I personally caught a glimpse of the No. 4 ovens in 2002 or 2003 from my truck. There was some kind of logging or demolition going on around them, and they are probably gone now. Finally, there were 51 beehive coke ovens at the Enterprise works, which was where the entrance to the Alverton landfill is now. I believe these ovens have been completely removed now.

Image courtesy of the Strohm family

Vintage photo of the coke ovens at Donnelly.

Jan. 2002 image by author

These were the last non-by-product coke ovens burning in Pennsylvania. They are at the Alverton patch. The Pa. D.E.R. closed them down in 1982. Actually, they weren't the true beehive shape, they are actually recatangular ovens, and were really built in the 1970s. But they were loaded through the trunnel hole in the top of the oven, and the charge of coke pulled through the front door of the oven. So, they are of the old school variety, and they were the last ones! 1982!

Jan. 2002 image by author

Detail of the latter day coke ovens at Alverton. They were constructed of yellow fire brick rather than the old cut stone and red brick. I would say they were of the rectangular style of coke ovens. Note the steel enclosed trunnel hole of the oven. There are two for each oven.

Early 1990s HAER image

The 8 oven Alverton coke plant that was built in 1977 (one of them was built in 1974) is shown recently abandoned here. On the right are the ruins of the Union coke ovens.

1980 image by Eugene Levy

Actual photo of workers tending to the Alverton coke ovens in 1980. (That same year, the last plant in America with traditionally designed beehive coke ovens closed down in Bretz, W.Va., about an hour south of Alverton.) They are actually working beehive ovens next to the more modern ovens seen in the background. How the Pennsylvania DER let them get away with this as late as 1980 is beyond me.

Jan. 2002 image by author

In contrast to the more modern coke ovens at Alverton No. 1, these coke ovens at Alverton No. 2 (also known as Donnelly) were of the old school variety. There were 200 coke ovens there in 1880. The Donnelly mine and coke yard were operated by Donnelly and Dillenger. Later owners were the McClure Coke Co., Frick Coal and Coke Co., and the Alverton Coke Company. A current resident of the Alverton vicinity told me that these ovens burned into the 1960s. Most have been torn out for a makeshift shooting range.

Dec. 2003 image by author

There are only a few remaining company-built houses in Mayfield. Mayfield was later known as Alverton No. 3 and Donnelly Alverton No. 2.

May 2003 image by author

These two white structures are on a farm near Alverton. The owner of the farm told me that these are former company houses that were moved to his farm, where his family has used them for repair shops and storage buildings. If these were, in fact, coal company houses, they differ greatly from the other company houses in the area.

Jan. 2002 image by author

When I first took this photo, I assumed that these homes were built by the coal and coke company. I'm not so sure about that now, but they were a stone's throw from company houses.

Google Street View image

I do believe the residential structure on the left was built by one of the coal companies back in the 1800s. In the background can be seen the former Alverton Hotel.

From a Sep. 1982 A.P. article titled "Beehive Coke Ovens' Days Over:" The beehive coke oven, once so numerous that old-timers say you could read a newspaper at night from the orange glow, is making a fiery farewell after being doomed to oblivion. The last known beehive ovens operating in the United Sates were extinguished June 14, the victim of air pollution controls and more efficient ways of converting coal into coke. But with permission of state environmental officials, the Alverton Coke Co. will fire up a beehive coke oven one more time as part of the Scottdale Coal & Coke Heritage Festival Sept. 17-19. "It's the end of an era. As far as we know, it's the last beehive oven operating in the U.S.," said Edith Painter, owner of the coke works. "Just another dinosaur bound for extinction," mused her son Jim Everard, who is president of the southwestern Pennsylvania company ... "There used to be streetcars running from Brownsville to Latrobe, and there were so many coke ovens burning you could read your newspaper at night from their light," said Campbell. "You didn't dare wash your clothes the day they were going to draw coke, because your sheets would get black. People set their wash day in conjunction with the coking cycle," he added ... It was the foul smoke and harmful particles that finally meant the end for beehive ovens. "They violate air pollution regulations, regarding the burning of sulphur and particulate emissions," said Mike Mendicino of the Bureau of Air Quality Control for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. Mendicino gave permission to light one beehive oven again for the coke festival, although Mrs. Painter has four non-recovery ovens to supply coke to horse shoers and small foundries. "The emissions from one oven are insignificant, really," said Mendicino. In earlier times, beehive coke ovens were loaded with six to eight tons of coal from the top by men and mules hauling lorries. Kindling was used to light the coal and the front portal was mortared shut, leaving only a small opening that restricted oxygen flow and prevented the coal from burning completely. Under these controlled conditions, the coal would bake for 72 hours at temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees. Workers would then draw the coke out with long-handled steel tools before quenching it with water and shipping it by rail or barge to the mills.

Apparently, the Coal and Coke Days festival continued at least until the late 1980s. Here is a photo of Carnegie Mellon University professor Eugene Levy making coke at the Alverton ovens in 1988.