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Once a forefront of American industry, Blue Coal’s Huber Breaker was abandoned in the late 1970’s and is currently being demolished for scrap

David Goran

Blue Coal’s Huber Breaker was a landmark located in the borough of Ashley, Hanover Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, USA. It was the last of the great anthracite coal cleaning and processing plants. The breaker was built in 1939 to replace the Maxwell Breaker, a wooden structure built by the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company located at the colliery.

Built in 1938, and opened in 1939, it was hailed as the most technologicaly advanced coal breaker of its time.

Built in 1939, it was hailed as the most technologically advanced coal breaker of its time. Source

It was built with some unique features, such as extensive window glass to utilize the most daylight possible, as well as tar coated sheet metal to reduce rust damage.

Some of its most obvious attributes are its large pane windows, which allowed for maximum lighting.

Some of its most obvious attributes are its large pane windows, which allowed for maximum lighting. Source: John Morgan/Flickr

Run-of-mine coal arriving at the breaker was washed and cleaned to remove impurities, principally slate. It was crushed and screened to specific sizes desired by customers. Considered an ultra-modern plant when constructed, it used Menzies Cones to separate coal from waste. The breaker was operated by the Blue Coal Corporation, a subsidiary of the Glen Alden Coal Company. It processed 7,000 tons of Anthracite coal per day, more than any other in the region. Railcars were loaded underneath the breaker and shipped to markets. The final product was sprayed with a blue dye and sold as “Blue Coal.

The Huber employed a total of 6,000 workers, and was capable of producing 7,000 tons of coal per deay, most of which would be shipped throughout the country

The Huber employed a total of 6,000 workers and was capable of producing 7,000 tons of coal per day, most of which would be shipped throughout the country. Source

 

The breaker was known for painting its coal blue, which served as a marketing gimmic.

The breaker was known for painting its coal blue, which served as a marketing gimmick. Source: LHOON/Flickr

In 1976, Blue Coal declared bankruptcy and ceased operations after the long decline of the anthracite industry after World War II. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society was formed in 2001 and hoped to re-use the property as a historical site and park that will serve to recognize and honor the memory of the thousands that worked at the Huber Breaker and its surrounding collieries.

In the 1800's and first half of the 1900's, structures like these produced almost all of the nation's coal right here in Northeastern PA.

In the 1800’s and the first half of the 1900’s, structures like these produced almost all of the nation’s coal right here in Northeastern PA. Source1: John Morgan/Flickr. Source2: Bianca Alberola/Flickr

 

Due to a lack of need for large amounts of coal, the breaker closed in 1976, and has since been left abandoned.

Due to a lack of need for large amounts of coal, the breaker closed in 1976 and has since been left abandoned. Source: Brad Clinesmith/Flickr

A Philadelphia salvage dealer named Paselo Logistics LLC. bid $1.28 million for the breaker and 26.58 acres of land in August 2013 and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the sale. The Society lost its bid to purchase the breaker in a final attempt to save the landmark and, unfortunately, in spite of the tireless efforts of the Huber Breaker Preservation Society, the historic anthracite coal breaker was demolished in 2014. Demolition started on the breaker’s outbuildings in the week of January 24, 2014, and the Huber Breaker’s main building was demolished on April 24, 2014.

This place is currently being demolished for scrap

Once a great anthracite coal cleaning and processing plants, this place is currently being demolished for scrap. Source: John Morgan/Flickr

The last structure of the colliery, the powerhouse, was demolished in August 2014. The issue of whether asbestos was properly handled during demolition is still generating controversy among Ashley residents, Ashley Borough, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The Society continues to raise funds to complete the park.