Abandoned Communities

McKeesport, Pennsylvania

A gallery of abandoned or neglected communities in the United States.






Indiana

Gary

Gary, Indiana was founded in 1906 by United States Steel (USS) as the home for its new Gary Works. The city was named after the founding chairman of USS, Elbert Henry Gary. The steel industry provided the city with rapid growth and a diverse population, but by the 1960s, foreign competition caused USS to lay off workers from its Gary Works. The mill, which had employed over 30,000 in 1970, declined to just 6,000 by 1990 and 5,000 by 2015.

The city’s population dropped subsequently, going from a peak of 178,320 in 1960 to 80,000 in 2010.

Modoc

Modoc, Indiana is located along the former Indiana, Bloomington & Western Railway which was constructed through the town in 1878. The community of less than 200 is named after the Modoc Indian tribe who were traditionally located in northern California. The tribe was noted for the resistance to the United States military during the Modoc War, which ended in 1873.



Kentucky

Davis / Straight Creek

Davis, Kentucky is located along Davis Road in northern Scott County. It is centered around the circa 1828 Beards Presbyterian Church and general store.

Marshallville

Marshallville, Kentucky is located along the former Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Dawkins Subdivision. It is named after local families.



Maryland



Ohio

East Cleveland

Mingo Junction

Mingo Junction, Ohio was founded circa 1869 when an ironworks was started nearby. It later centered around Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel’s Mingo Junction Works which closed in 2009.

The town served as a Pennsylvania steel mill community in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter and as a primary filming location for the 1984 film Reckless.

Negley

Negley, Ohio is a community and former coal camp operated by the Powers Mining Company in Columbiana County, Ohio. It is at the northern terminus of the now-abandoned Youngstown & Southern Railroad’s Smith’s Ferry Branch. The company store, constructed in 1867, was reportedly the world’s largest in the early 1900s. It is now a 5,000 square-foot antique store.



Pennsylvania

Brownsville

Clairton

Clairton was incorporated on April 12, 1903, and was centered around Clairton Works, the largest coke manufacturing facility in the United States. The production of coke was vital for the pig iron blast furnaces that produced steel throughout the region. The population of the Clairton peaked at nearly 20,000 residents in 1950s but a catastrophic collapse of the domestic steel industry caused the town to be declared economically stressed in 1988.

McKeesport

McKeesport, established in 1795, remained a small village until 1830 when coal mining began in the region. The town steadily grew to peak at 55,000 residents in 1940 during a time when National Tube Works dominated the local industry. The decline and eventual closure of National Tube and other steel plants in the area, along with a massive fire that destroyed a significant portion of downtown in 1976, led to McKeesport’s population to collapse to under 20,000 by 2010.

Other



West Virginia

Algoma

Algoma, West Virginia was developed by the Algoma Coal & Coke Company in 1891, with mining operations beginning with the opening of the Algoma Mine in the Pocahontas No. 3 seam. 3 4 6 The coal, sold under the trade name “The Great Algoma,” was ideal for use in steelmaking and for domestic heating. 6

A small company store and office building was erected but it was soon replaced with a larger 2½-story facility was in 1894. 3 4 In 1897, the company added 175 coke ovens to convert coal into coke for steelmaking. 5

In 1948, a new combination company store and office building was designed in the Art Moderne architecture by Welch architect Hassel T. Hicks. 4 It featured a typical dry goods company store and a revolutionary self-service grocery store on the ground floor and company offices and medical clinics on the second floor.

The Algoma Coal & Coke Company was acquired by the Island Creek Coal Company in In January 1957. 6 At the time, the completely mechanized mine employed 450 men who extracted 2,500 tons of coal daily, and it was expected that the complex had a remaining lifespan of 30 years. The facilities were later purchased by the United Pocahontas Coal Company in the 1960s. 4

In later years, after the mines had closed, the Algoma company store and office building was reused as a medical clinic. 4

Ashland

Ashland, West Virginia was developed by W. J. Richards, the chief engineer of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company who started the Ashland Coal & Coke Company, with mining operations beginning with the opening of the Ashland Mine in the Pocahontas No. 3 seam in 1894. 7 8 The company and town were named after the Ashland Coal Company of Ashland, Pennsylvania. 8

The mine remained operational until 1979. 8

Giatto

Giatto, West Virginia was a black residential area for the Weyanoke Coal Company of Weyanoke. Some houses remain along the abandoned Norfolk & Western Right Fork Widemouth Branch and former alignment of WV Route 10.

Keystone

Keystone, West Virginia was developed by the Keystone Coal & Coke Company in 1892. 1 The first mine at Keystone, Keystone No. 1, produced until 1986 and was the oldest coal mine in the Pocahontas Coalfield. The mines were later operated by the Koppers Coal Company in 1936, by Eastern Associated Coal in 1967, and by Governor Jim Justice’s Bluestone Coal Company, and by the Russian-owned Mechel Company.

Keystone served as a regional center for the adjoining coal company towns and was home to wholesale grocers, retail stores, saloons, and entertainment. 2 It was widely known for Cinder Bottom, a red-light district. The population of the community peaked at 2,500 in 1950 but like many towns in the coalfield, it began to decline because of pressures from mining mechanization and coal reserve depletion. Destructive floods further wiped out what remained of the business district.

By 2020, the population of Keystone was just slightly over 200.

McComas

The once-bustling McComas, West Virginia coal camp was developed by multiple coal companies, including the American Coal Company, the Thomas Coal Company, and the Pocahontas Fuel Company. 9

Springton

Springton, West Virginia lies along the abandoned Norfolk & Western Right Fork Widemouth Branch. It was owned by Solvay Collieries, a unit of the Semet-Solvey Division of the Allied Chemical Corporation between 1915 and 1922, and by the Kingston-Pocahontas Coal Company between 1923 and 1942. 10

The Springton Elementary School, plagued with water and sewage problems, closed in May 1970. 11 The 70 remaining students were bussed to nearby Matoaka.

Stephenson

Stephenson, West Virginia was developed by the Buckeye Coal & Coke Company and later managed by the Crozer Page Coal Company and Consol.

Weirton

Wilsontown

Wilsontown, West Virginia was settled by Gideon Hall Wilson in the mid-1860s who operated a grist and sawmill along Flatwoods Run. 12 The grist and sawmill were destroyed by fire in 1890. Notable buildings include:

  • Wilson Chapel, a one-room church built in 1887.
  • Gideon Wilson House, a large two-story residence.
  • Jonathan Wilson House, a country-style residence built in 1880. 13

Zenith

Zenith, located at the base of Peter’s Mountain in Monroe County. The community is reportedly named after the highest point in the heavens above an observers head.

Other






Further Reading


Sources

  1. DellaMea, Chris. “Keystone.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  2. McGehee, C. Stuart. “Keystone.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 03 December 2018.
  3. “Algoma.” West Virginia Company Stores, by Dale Payne, Patterson Printing, 2012, p. 3.
  4. United States. Dept. of the Interior. Itmann Company Store and Office. Comp. Stacy Sone. Washington: National Park Service, Dec. 1991. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
  5. “From the Files of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 12 Nov. 1937, p. 6.
  6. “Island Creek Mine Increases Production.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 4 Jan. 1957, p. 2.
  7. DellaMea, Chris. “Ashland.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  8. Aurora Research Associates, 2018, Coal Heritage Survey Update Final Report, McDowell County, West Virginia.
  9. DellaMea, Chris. “McComas.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  10. DellaMea, Chris. “Flat Top Field.” Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, 2021.
  11. “Mercer Co. Board Votes to Close Grade School.” Post-Herald and Register [Beckley], 3 May 1970, p. 14.
  12. West Virginia. Dept. of Culture & History. Gideon Wilson House. Comp. Noel W. Tenney. 1984. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
  13. West Virginia. Dept. of Culture & History. Jonathan Wilson House. Comp. Noel W. Tenney. 1984. West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

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