Several weeks I drove through the small town of West Blocton, and stopped at the Blocton Coke Ovens. The small park was built around the former facility that once housed 140 bee-hive coke ovens.
The town of Blocton was first call Gresham and was a Cahaba Coal Mining Company town founded by Truman H. Aldrich in 1883-84. By 1915 there were ten local coal mines. In its hay day around 1900 Blocton was the largest of the company towns in the Cahaba coal mining field. There were nine churches, two depots, schools, fraternal lodges, a company store, waterworks, a hospital, and over 375 miners’ homes. Construction began on the 140 ovens in 1887. By the 1890 additional rows were add for a total of 467 ovens. After U.S. Steel ceased its operation in 1928 the town began to decline.
The bee-hive was laid out into rows. As you can see there are small cells that line the row. Each cell has a partner cell located directly on the opposite side if the row which can’t be seen from this angle.
This is a three image pano that was sewn together using Photoshop Elements 9. In 1985 large end wall stones were removed from this site and used in the restoration of the furnaces located at Tannehill.
Blocton and other ovens located around the Birmingham area kept the steel industry supplied with coke which is a lighter, cleaner and longer burning fuel. Coke is the results after the impurities have been charred out of coal. It is similar to charcoal, with the exception that charcoal comes from wood.
This is not the ovens located at Blocton, but is an image of a working coke oven facility.
The above train engine was used to move the Coke trough this facility.