All Photos by Cheri Sundra
Eleven stories of tar-coated steel, scads of partially dismantled machinery, hundreds of broken steel-reinforced windows and more insight into the ravages of time than you can hope to absorb in one visit make the Ashley/Huber Breaker a popular site for urban explorers in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since closing in 1976, this mammoth structure has had to survive salvage operations, vandalism and Mother Nature, in addition to fears about typical Luzerne County style politics.
When it was built in 1939 to replace an older and out-dated structure, the Huber Coal Breaker was considered a technological marvel. The facility was operated by the Glen Alden Coal Company to process coal from three nearby mines. Seven to ten thousand people have worked at the Huber Breaker sorting, washing and loading 7,000 tons of coal daily into train gondolas.
Long before companies like Nike and Ralph Lauren embraced the color “Pop” merchandising display technique to seduce consumers into buying their products, the Glen Alden Coal Company painted their coal blue as a marketing ploy that resulted in the moniker “Blue Coal Company”.
Because of the decline of the mining industry in the region, the facility was abandoned in 1976. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society was formed in 2001, hoping to turn the location into a local tourist attraction and historical sight. You can read about their current efforts at:
Unfortunately, local residents seem to have little confidence that this endeavor will achieve success because the restoration costs are so prohibitive and many doubt that this vision will actually draw additional tourism to the area.
Incidentally, I’ve had conversations with some urban explorers who would like to see the Huber Breaker Preservation Society adopt an Eastern State Penitentiary-esque approach to their efforts to save the Huber Breaker before this structure is forever lost to history.