A few years ago, I started learning about the part of my family history that is rooted in the anthracite coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania. I discovered an old coal town, Eckley, that was preserved because it was used as the location of a historical movie (“The Molly Maguires”) in the late 1960s. It’s a fascinating place to visit. The Eckley Visitor Center has an exhibit hall that shows what life was like in Eckley and a film to watch that describes life in a coal patch town. You can walk through the village or take a guided tour that takes you into miner’s houses and a handful of other buildings in town. One of the parts of the town is a coal breaker, re-created for the movie. A coal breaker was where the coal was taken by rail cars after it was removed underground, and what where young workers called breaker boys would sort the coal.
There are no more breakers in the region, so this one at Eckley is the closest we have to seeing what one looked like. When I was there in January 2019, I took a photo of the breaker:
When I was at Eckley last week, in June 2021, I took another photo of the breaker:
I was shocked and saddened to see how a large amount of the top of the breaker is now gone. When I asked at the Visitor Center if there were plans for it to be repaired, I was told that it is questionable, in large part because it is a replica and not original.
Given that this breaker is at Eckley Miners’ Village, “…a museum representing the lives of the immigrant anthracite coal miners and their families…” (from their website), I hope that there is some way to preserve it before it too is lost like the original before it, and like all of the breakers that dotted the region for decades.
Any ideas about what can be done to help save it?