Part of world's largest breaker coming down
SUFFOLK - Demolition crews on Monday started to tear down parts of what was once known as the world's largest coal breaker, the St. Nicholas Breaker in Mahanoy Township.
"It's a partial demolition of the structure. They're demolishing the front loading area and the railroad loading area, which is located near the front of the structure also. They started on Aug. 26 and hope to finish by Oct. 26," Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Protection, Wilkes-Barre, said Monday.
The contractor for demolition is Northeast Industrial Services Corp., Shamokin, Connolly said.
James Stevens, chairman of the Mahanoy Township supervisors, said he's not sure what this means for the rest of the structure, a landmark and an icon to the age when coal was king.
"It's been an eyesore for years. At one time, they were talking about turning it into a museum but nothing happened with that. They own it and they can do what they want. I would think there's a lot of scrap metal in there," Stevens said Monday.
The St. Nicholas Breaker is just off Route 54 in Mahanoy Township. It was known as the world's largest coal breaker from the time it opened in 1931 until it closed in 1963.
It's owned by Reading Anthracite Co., Pottsville. The company has a mural-sized framed picture of it - measuring approximately 8-feet-high and 10-feet-wide - in the first-floor hallway of its headquarters at 200 Mahantongo St.
Donna B. Kempfort, Reading Anthracite's real estate administrator, said she had no information on the project Monday. She referred all questions about it to Brian R. Rich, company president.
Kempfort said Rich was out of the office Monday and was unreachable. Messages were left for him Monday but not returned.
John W. Rich Jr., chairman of the Reading Anthracite board of directors and brother of Brian Rich, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Since the mid-19th century, there were two coal breakers just off Route 54 named after St. Nicholas.
The first opened in 1861, according to the "Joseph H. Zerbey History of Pottsville and Schuylkill County," published in 1936.
"The old St. Nicholas breaker received its name in 1861 because the initial run of coal took place on Christmas Day," according to "Mahanoy Area," a 2004 book in the Images of America series by Mahanoy Area Historical Society.
"The breaker was torn down in 1928 to make way for the new central plant, which was constructed a short distance to the north," according to that book.
The second St. Nicholas Breaker was built with 3,800 tons of steel and 10,000 cubic yards of concrete, according to The Republican-Herald archives.
"Half of the Billage of Suffolk was relocated in order to create room for the largest coal breaker in the world. Twenty miles of railroad track were laid, 3,800 tons of steel and more than 10,000 cubic yards of concrete were used. A mile and a half of conveyor lines, 25 miles of conduit, 26,241 square feet of rubber belting, 118 miles of wire and cable and 20 miles of pipe were installed," according to undergroundminers.com, "The Official Website Of Abandoned Mine Research Inc."
On March 11, 1931, the breaker started operation, according to the Zerbey history.
It processed an average 12,500 tons of anthracite per day, according to "Mahanoy Area Revisited," a 2013 book in the Images of America series by Mahanoy Area Historical Society.
Reading Anthracite submitted a required 10-day demolition notice to the DEP Bureau of Air Quality Central Office, Harrisburg, in August, Connolly said.
"All commercial businesses in the commonwealth are required to notify DEP within 10 days of demolition. It is a DEP Air Quality regulation," Connolly said.