Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Happens When the Coal and Coke Industries Disappear

My Facebook news feed was all kinds of a mess the other night when my Connellsville friends started talking about a building collapse. A man was injured but is okay, and the building has been demolished by the city. Which is funny, because as I watched the story on WTAE over dinner on campus the other night I thought, "It'll be torn down and made into a parking lot," like other dilapidated buildings before it. Anyone remember the Troutman Building?

Once First National Bank and then Troutman's Department Store, demolished in 1997. Now there's an H & R Block there.

I was about seven years old then, and remember how different Connellsville's skyline looked driving into what could be considered downtown from the hill I lived on. Oh, yeah, and it was haunted (see "The Fearful Fourth Floor" at the bottom of the page).

Connellsville's full of big, old buildings like this, and most of them are either abandoned or seem to be abandoned. Seems like owners lack either money or desire to keep these places intact. Even houses are the same - just by looking at them, you can tell Connellsville once had money. In fact, at one time it had more millionaires per capita than any other place in the country. And when Connellsville's coke was no longer needed - and the ovens and patch towns are still everywhere - everything went to hell.

Which brings us back to dilapidated buildings. The article says that two other Connellsville buildings are "public safety hazards": Macko's and Aaron's Furniture Store, both over 100 years old and therefore part of Connellsville's heyday. Both were ordered demolished in January. Glad to see that Connellsville is interested in preserving city history, although they probably don't have any other choice.

Really, the buildings are a reminder of the fact that Connellsville isn't what it used to be and in more than one way. Sure, that's been evident for years, but with each one ordered demolished more of Connellsville's rich history is destroyed. Literally. Not only have the buildings been allowed to deteriorate, but they can't even afford to get rid of them.

The bottom line? In the words of Mayor Charles Matthews, "We can’t continue to do this; the city doesn’t have the money."


  1. I remember seeing this on the news too, except I was sitting in the waiting room of MedExpress...

  2. I remember Troutman's we went to see them start the demolition. Funny story about the Ghost. Like you I was seven, and I was in Pat's Bridal getting a First Holy Communion dress. She told us that people would go around wearing sheets saying they were the ghost. She said a news station filmed it. It would be hilarious to find the clip!

  3. Leah, if you can find it or if I find it because of your comment you will be my favorite person ever.

  4. Great post... I think about this topic all of the time. My grandfather had the first radiology practice in Uniontown. After he retired and sold his building (which had so much character and was on Morgantown Street), it decayed... and now it's a parking lot.