Blocton Coke Ovens

Blocton Coke Ovens

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.

 row of ovens

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.


 Coke Oven Pano

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.


a once working facility

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.





8 thoughts on “Blocton Coke Ovens

    1. Thanks for dropping by Tony. We have got to get together sometime and shoot. The city is known now as West Blocton. I’m not sure why, it not large enough for there to be an East Blocton. Anyway it in located in Bibb County close to Centerville. They host the Cahaba Lily Festival each year in May. This year it is on May 18th. You might have heard of it. The lily only grows in the Cahaba River and is in bloom during that time of the year. I say that I going to make it someday but I never do. However, I’m going to try again this year.

    1. Great Tony. I’m going to be in Savannah Ga. the next two weekends and my daughter and I are going to Tuscaloosa the next for Alabama’s A Day game. If you think that you might be interested in going to West Blocton in May shoot me an email.

  1. An very interesting story. It’s hard to imagine how life was before oil, gas or modern technology. Great images – as always. I really like the one of the old train engine.

    1. Thanks Otto. It is hard to imagine living without our modern conveniences. Heck, I can’t bear to remember the early days of computers when I was lusting after that new 4800 baud modem!(What blazing speed!) Just think how funny the term High Speed connection will sound one day.

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