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DAVIDSON, PA

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Davidson, beyond the edge of Connellsville, was opened for coke making in 1856 in an area along the Youghiogheny River that was ground zero for the Connellsville Coal and Coke Field. Like many Western Pennsylvania coke works, it was named after the farmer who sold the land. The first operators - Norton, Faber, and Midskimmer - mined coal and made coke in ricks, which was basically a pile of coal set alight and covered with soil to limit combustion. In 1860 or 1862 (sources differ) a more serious coal and coke operation commenced with the sinking of a shaft and construction of beehive ovens by the Connellsville Gas, Coal and Coke Co. By the end of that decade an actual "patch town" had developed at the site with company houses and a company store. This predated Henry Clay Frick's pioneering operations down the river by a few years. Frick himself acquired the Davidson coal and coke plant and town in 1888. Over the years more and more coke ovens were constructed until they totalled 333. Davidson continued to produce coal and coke until the reserves were depleted during World War 2.


January 2017 image by Mike Mance

A few of the coke ovens survive into the 21st Century.


June 2012 image courtesy of Trains and Trails

A remaining industrial building from Davidson mine.


June 2012 Google Street View image

These former company houses may date back to the 1860s, making them among the oldest surviving company houses in Western Pennsylvania. The one in the background is somewhat less altered and retains its central chimney. They were originally two family duplex houses.


1993 HAER photo by Jet Lowe

The former Union Supply Company store stood until the early 2000s.


1993 HAER photo by Jet Lowe

Duplex company houses, perhaps built when Frick took over operations.


June 2012 Google Street View image

This, one of the last remaining "patch" houses, was demolished in the 2010s.


1980s HAER photo by Jet Lowe

This Davidson house retained its board and batten siding into the 1980s.


Sources:

Heald, Sarah, editor. Fayette County, Pennsylvania; An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites. National Park Service, 1990.

Warren, Kenneth. Wealth, Waste, and Alienation. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.

Mance, Michael. Davidson Coke Works. Old Industry of Southwestern Pennsylvania, 8 Jan. 2017, coalandcoke.blogspot.com.



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