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Revloc Historic District


Homes on Highland Avenue, Revloc Historic District, Cambria Township, PA, National Register

Photo: Homes on Highland Avenue, Revloc Historic District, Cambria Township, PA. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Photographed by user:Generic1139 (own work), 2014, [cc-by-3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed December, 2014.

The Revloc Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Revloc Historic District consists of a residential area and utilitarian industrial buildings associated with the Monroe Coal Mining Company, a subsidiary of the Coleman and Weaver Company of Cambria County. The district, developed between 1916 and 1944, is located in central Cambria County, and is surrounded by rolling hills and rural farmland. The roughly square grid plan district consists of the company town and the mine site. The grid is broken in the center by an oval-shaped park. The company town part of the historic district is situated on a hill with the industrial part of the district at the foot of the hill and to the south. The 83 acre property is situated in Cambria Township, located approximately two miles west of Ebensburg, Cambria County. The Revloc Historic District contains 225 resources, 205 classified as contributing, and 20 classified as noncontributing. The town is primarily residential in character with uniform wood and brick veneer company housing. Included in the district is a school, company store and three churches. Integrity of setting, location, material, design, feeling, and association is particularly strong. The overall feeling of the Revloc Historic District is one of a rural community, although it is in close proximity to Ebensburg, the county seat of Cambria County. There are only two roads into Revloc, both off U.S. Route 422 near Ebensburg, Cambria County. The district is an intact, well-preserved community that is unified by its association with and construction by the Monroe Coal Company in the mid-1910s.

The Revloc Historic District is a compact town with no resources outside the 83 acre area. It is laid out into five numbered streets running from north to south, and five avenues running east to west with an oval open space used as a park and play area in the center of town. The industrial buildings associated with the Revloc Mine are to the south of the main residential district area and are generally visible from the town. The majority of the resources in the historic district are residential in character. The Revloc Historic District features housing resources constructed for the Monroe Coal Company by the Sauers and Moore Construction Company. Revloc is a typical example of coal mining communities in southwestern Pennsylvania: uniformly constructed wood-frame miners' housing, and more sturdily built, masonry and stone housing for management, company office and mine buildings, churches, a school, and a community park. The Revloc Historic District is distinctive among coal patches in the region for its use of brick veneer construction, that was locally called "tile" in a large portion of the community.

Wood-frame, company-built miners' housing dominates the residential portions of the district. The extant miner houses share a number of characteristics. Windows are double-hung, two-over-two sash, and doors are wood and four panel. Built in rows, the blocks of houses are uniformly set back from the street, creating a rhythm characteristic of western Pennsylvania coal patches. The miners' houses located generally on Wood, Harding, and Penn Avenues were originally covered with dark asphalt siding and white trim. Most houses in Revloc also had small entry porches with simple supports.

Entering the district from the north on Fifth Street, the first area of the town encountered is the area to the east surrounding Highland Avenue. The homes are constructed of a wooden frame enclosed by red "tile," a type of half-brick sheathing which is designed to resemble brick construction. Although many of the homes have retained their distinctive tile siding, some homes have been covered with vinyl or aluminum siding, however the main structural characteristics are generally still intact and discernible.

All miners' housing in the Revloc Historic District falls into one of five general categories. The first type — detached, three-bay, six-room, wood-frame, front gable houses — is found predominantly on Highland and Penn Avenues. Some excellent examples of this architecture are located at 619 and 627 Highland Avenue. These buildings are still covered with the original red tile that is characteristic of homes in Revloc. The second type — detached, two-bay, four-room, wood-frame, front gable houses — is found between 610-615 Highland Avenue, between 505-516 and 565-580 Cambria Avenue, between 361-357 Wood Avenue, and 367 Wood Avenue. The third variation, similar to the second type — detached, two-bay, six-room, wood-frame, front gable houses — is located between 663-645 Highland Avenue. These homes are located in an area of Highland Avenue associated with the supervisors of the mine, and the higher quality of the housing reflects this. The fourth variation is four-room, semi-detached houses with either front gable or hip roofs located between 380-369 and 366-363 Wood Avenue, as well as between 171.5-141 Harding Avenue. The final type of housing construction in the Revloc Historic District is detached, three-bay brick houses of which only three were constructed, one at 550 Cambria Avenue, which was designed as the former company store manager's home, and the remaining two at 131 and 133 Harding Avenue.

Although asphalt siding, as well as the original red or orange "tile" siding, are still in evidence, today many of the miners' houses have synthetic or metal siding and replacement windows. Commonly, doors have been replaced, and some window and door openings have been altered to accommodate changing lifestyles. In general, these changes are not sufficient in and of themselves to classify vernacular, simply constructed buildings such as these as noncontributing. However, houses in the Revloc Historic District are classified as noncontributing where changes to siding are combined with major alterations and additions which compromise the scale, massing, and feeling of the building.

Water for the town was piped from Williams Run, about two miles from Revloc, and held in a reservoir located behind 655 and 659 Highland Avenue. The reservoir consists of a masonry wall measuring 16 feet high by 20 feet in diameter with a 35 feet high steel tank on top. It delivered water to each house in Revloc.

The Revloc Historic District also contains a number of brick and stone buildings relating to the Monroe Coal Company's operations. The mine site is located off Bethlehem Road to the south of the residential area of the district. This area contains utilitarian buildings associated with the mine, which was sold to Bethlehem Mines Corporation, and is currently not in use.

The stone company store (1918) is located on a steeply sloping hillside, west of the oval community park in the middle of the district. In addition to housing the company store, the building housed the Revloc post office, which was subsequently moved to a building on Cambria Avenue. (This post office building was later replaced by a modern, one-story building constructed in 1982.) The company closed the store in the 1950s, and it is currently vacant. This one-story building contains a basement and is constructed of rough-cut, random-range sandstone. Three large windows along the north facade have been infilled with brick. This building is almost identical in appearance to the company stores built by two other coal-mining subsidiaries of the Coleman and Weaver Company, one located in Nanty Glo and the other in Colver. The company store is currently in disrepair due to its long-term vacancy and is rapidly deteriorating. In addition, attempts have been made to sell the building and the possibly of demolishing the building exists.

The company payroll office (c.1916) is located at the corner of Fifth Street and Harding Avenue. It is one story with random-range masonry bearing walls set on a raised basement with a hip roof. A thick stone water table extends around the exterior. The former payroll office is now privately owned and has been converted into a residence. Alterations to the building include new windows and new concrete stairs in the front and the rear of the building.

At the mine site, the company boiler house (c.1916), located near the mine shaft, is the first industrial building encountered when entering the former mine site from Bethlehem Road. This brick, one-story building with a hip roof is one of the earliest remaining buildings from the original Revloc mine. The building had an addition constructed on the west end a few years after its original construction housing a supply hoist and superintendent's office. This addition, also constructed of stretcher-bond brick, with brick pilasters and timber Howe roof trusses, doubled the size of the original building. Directly to the west of the boiler house was the mine shaft and fan house. The fan house was removed after the mine was purchased by BethEnergy and the shaft was covered in 1982. With the exception of two large doors in the front and rear of the building, the building has few other doors or windows. Presently, the remaining building is vacant.

The supply house (c.1918) is also located at the former mine site. The building contains random-range stone walls, and utilizes old rails for its roof system. A small concrete-block shed, used for storing dynamite, was added to the east facade of the supply house. The supply house is currently used for storage.

The machine and blacksmith shop (c.1916) is located west of the supply house. It was constructed of brick, now partially covered with metal siding, with a shallow gable roof and multi-paned metal windows on the east facade. An addition was built after the mine was purchased by BethEnergy in 1948 which connected a another larger supply house (c. 1916) to the machine and blacksmith shop. Currently, the building is used for storage and, according to BethEnergy (Gailey, 1994), will be cleaned and used for future offices.

In addition to the residential and industrial buildings in the Revloc Historic District, the town also includes three churches. The Revloc Presbyterian Church (1923) is located at the corner of Sixth Street and Highland Avenue. The congregation was organized in July, 1920 and services were held in the public school building until the present building was erected in July, 1923. The church, constructed of brick with a front gable roof and a small entry porch, is situated adjacent to the church parsonage. The windows of the church are of two kinds: stained glass and glass block. The parsonage is also constructed of brick, and is a two-bay, two-story house resembling the other residences on Highland Avenue.

The Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church (1924) is located at the corner of Sixth Street and Cambria Avenue. This brick late Gothic Revival style church with gable roof has stained glass windows and a stone foundation. It was constructed after a wooden building which had previously served as the first Catholic church in Revloc. This wood church was altered and subsequently became the Greek Catholic Church located at the corner of Seventh Street and Cambria Avenue. The Greek Catholic Church was later destroyed and replaced with the current noncontributing brick church, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, in 1974. The Most Holy Redeemer church parsonage was re-constructed after the period of significance with brick and is a non-contributing building.

In addition to the religious buildings, the Revloc School is still intact and in relatively good condition. School was originally held in a company house until part of the present building was built around 1919. Originally a four-room building, the Revloc School was expanded to eight rooms and a music room in 1924 to accommodate more children. The yellow brick two-story building has undergone some alterations, including the replacement of windows and the covering of some of the original window bays with concrete or wood. Currently, the flat-roofed school building is used for apartments. Both the school and the company store are located on the oval-shaped park at the center of town. This park was a part of the original plan for the town and measures 250 feet by 300 feet. It is bordered by a street and now includes a playground.

The Revloc Historic District has a number of noncontributing resources, most classified as such either due to alterations or to construction after the period of significance. The majority of the noncontributing resources (16, or 80%) are residential. Two are miners' houses classified as noncontributing due to excessive alterations, including the addition of two-story columns and synthetic siding to the house at 351 Wood Avenue, and the addition of stone columns and stucco siding to the house at 643 Highland Avenue. Fourteen are residential buildings built after the period of significance. These are either one-story frame and brick ranch-style and split-level homes, or metal house trailers. Both types are incompatible in terms of material, scale, design, and massing. In addition to the noncontributing residences added to the district, the Revloc U.S. Post Office was constructed in 1982. The first Revloc Fire Company housed its fire truck in a building constructed in 1959. In the 1970s, the current Revloc Volunteer Fire Company building was constructed adjacent to the old fire company building near the Most Holy Redeemer Church on Cambria Avenue. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, constructed in 1974, is also noncontributing. In general, the noncontributing resources are scattered and have only a minimal effect on the overall integrity of the historic district.

The Revloc Historic District is a highly complete, minimally altered example of a coal industry community from the first half of the 20th century. The combination of the densely built patch community and the mine resources evokes the historic feeling. The integrity of feeling, location, setting, association, workmanship, and materials is strong despite some limited alterations to the building stock.

Significance

The Revloc Historic District reflects many characteristics of a typical planned bituminous coal mining community in Pennsylvania as outlined in the registration requirements of the "Bituminous Coal and Coke Resources of Pennsylvania, 1740-1945" (multiple property listing, National Register of Historic Places) where the company provides for educational, religious, residential, social and/or commercial needs. Typically, this included uniform housing and lot size, company ownership of land and buildings, and paternalism as typically practiced in industries first half of the twentieth century. Revloc was constructed by the Sauers and Moore Construction Company for the Monroe Coal Company in 1917 and the mine continued to extract coal up to 1982. The period of significance extends from 1917 to 1945.

The history of Cambria County would be incomplete if the coal industry were not accorded a prominent place. Small-scale coal mining in Cambria County dates prior to 1769, but the first commercial coal mine in the county was opened by Michael and Matthew Myers in 1825 west of the town of Lilly. The coal mining industry in Cambria County boasts several "firsts," including the first by-product coke used in blast furnace smelting and the first compressed air coal punchers. By the early 20th century, Cambria County was a booming center of coal production in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In 1909, John Heisley Weaver, a successful coal operator and broker from Williamsport, Pennsylvania formed a partnership with B. Dawson Coleman of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Operating out of corporate offices in Philadelphia, Coleman and Weaver quietly began to acquire mineral and surface rights near Ebensburg, the county seat of Cambria County. In late 1910, Coleman and Weaver opened the Colver mine (about eight miles north of Revloc) through a subsidiary, the Ebensburg Coal Company. The name "Colver" was derived from the first and last syllables of their respective names. "Revloc" is "Colver" spelled backwards.

In 1916, J. H. Weaver and his associates started to sink the shaft for the Revloc mine through a subsidiary called the Monroe Coal Company. The Chief Engineer for the Cambria and Indiana Railroad was S. H. Jencks. He designed and oversaw the construction of Colver and several other mines and patches associated with Weaver and Coleman, including Revloc. The Revloc mine shaft was completed in 1917, and the first shipment of coal to market made in 1918. Immediately following its completion, the Sauers and Moore Construction Company of Williamsport began constructing the town of Revloc completing 144 homes. For the first time, "fish (or fisk) lock" tile, a kind of brick veneer, was used in the construction of the miners' houses. In 1917, the company boasted that the town of Revloc would contain over 500 houses, each equipped with running water, electricity, and a sewer system. The company also claimed that a cinema, a hotel, and a road between Revloc and Colver would be constructed. Not all that was originally proposed materialized, which is evident in the town of Revloc today. No cinema or hotel was built, and only 200 houses were built in the town. The road to Colver was never built. Electricity to a single bulb in each room was provided, but an adequate sewer system was not established until a private group of citizens developed the town sewers much later.

The Coleman and Weaver partnership did not last long, dissolving in 1922. Coleman and his family retained control of the Ebensburg Coal Company until 1956, when it was sold to the Eastern Associated Coal Corporation. The Cambria and Indiana Railroad, which provided service to both Colver and Revloc, was held by Weaver until 1948, when the Revloc mine was sold to the Bethlehem Mines Corporation. Weaver also maintained control of the town of Revloc and the Revloc mine until the sale in 1948. Although the partnership may have been short-lived, the Revloc mine was an immediate and continuing success until its close in 1982. At this time, the price for coal was low and the cost of extraction high.

In order to attract workers to the relatively isolated mine site in rural northern Cambria County, the Monroe Coal Company built housing for its workers. Coal patch towns like Revloc were a common feature of the coal industry during and after the turn of the century, built to attract workers, to control labor unrest through the threat of eviction from the company-owned houses, and to recapture a percentage of the mine's labor costs through house rents and sales at the company store. Patch towns were particularly prevalent in Pennsylvania's bituminous coal fields: in 1925, the United States Coal Commission found that over 50% of the state's miners lived in company-built housing. A 1989 study of coal patches in south central and southwestern Pennsylvania has identified five characteristics common to most Pennsylvania coal towns: towns were financed, built, owned, and operated by only one company; houses within the community were constructed economically, using similar styles and material; houses were located near the mine site; houses tend to be two-story, balloon-frame buildings, usually semi-detached, with four to six rooms per dwelling; and a clear architectural hierarchy generally separated management housing from labor housing (Mulrooney: 1, 14-16).

Erected during the second decade of the 20th century, Revloc was a comparatively late bituminous coal company town. Revloc was constructed during the height of the reformist industrial housing movement, which sought to replace poorly built, unsanitary living quarters with model dwellings. The deep lots created green spaces and room for gardens. In contrast to the semi-detached houses found in most patch communities, all but a few dozen dwellings in the Revloc Historic District were detached and located on a hill above the mine, a design affording greater sunlight and ventilation. Once considered too costly to build, detached houses became economically feasible with innovations in mechanization and mass-production lowering construction costs. Concern for the health of miners, however, was only one motivation. With the coal industry becoming increasingly competitive, the Monroe Coal Company hoped that the more desirable detached houses might attract workers to the Revloc mine.

In spite of the intentions of the reform movement for better ventilation and sanitation, Revloc featured only basic amenities typical of many patches of the time period. Electricity was supplied by the company power house to a naked bulb hanging in the center of each room and was included in the monthly rent payment. Heating came from a coal stove, with the coal purchased from the company. The spacious backyards featured a coal bin, outhouse, and room for a garden and livestock, essential ways to supplement the family diet and income. The company encouraged garden keeping as a way to beautify the town and instill a sense of pride in the residents.

Management housing reflected the hierarchal arrangement typical of bituminous mining communities. As a sign of their status, high-level company officials usually lived on higher ground as in Revloc, on Highland Avenue. Company officials often had larger and better-made houses as compared to the rest of the town. Only three brick house were constructed in Revloc. Two are located on the corner lots at the intersection of Fifth Street and Harding Avenue. These were occupied by coal company management. The company store manager's house is located on Cambria Avenue, the only other brick house in the Revloc Historic District. Apparently, ethnic background determined the type of job assigned in the Revloc mine. By the same token, the occupation of the worker determined the housing arrangement in the town. For example, residents today associate the detached, two-bay, four-room houses located in the northeastern corner of the town with the Italian immigrants who worked in the mines. The south-central area of the town, however, was typically the living area of Eastern European immigrants, or "Hunkies," who were usually given the least-desired jobs in the mine. The southern area of Revloc was designated for German immigrants, and the northwestern area of the town consisted of workers of mixed lineage. Generally, those men who were born and raised in America were assigned living quarters on Highland Avenue, as they were given prominent occupations in the mine as well.

Housing was often crowded. To supplement the family income and to assist fellow immigrant countrymen, many families took in borders. It was not uncommon for ten or more residents to share the four- or six-room houses, sleeping in shifts and partitioning off internal spaces by means of blankets and other temporary dividers.

Shopping needs were met almost exclusively by the company store. Completed in 1918, the store sold everything from mining supplies to fresh meats, clothing, appliances, and furniture. In order to receive a job from the Monroe Coal Company, new workers were required to sign an agreement permitting the company to make the deductions for purchases from the company store. All purchases were made on credit, with payroll deductions taken every two weeks. Prices were generally higher at the company store than at the shops in Ebensburg, two miles to the east of the town. In the absence of a streetcar line or train service, however, few miners had the means to travel there. The miners often started small businesses independently in their homes, including a small confectionery store on Harding Avenue, and a barber shop on Wood Avenue. The businesses no longer exist.

The company also established or assisted in building a number of other important community institutions. The post office was originally in the company store and A. E. Roberts, the planner and chief engineer for the town of Revloc, was the first postmaster. Currently, the post office is located in a new building on Cambria Avenue. School was originally held in a company house until the present building was built around 1919. The school was also used for interdenominational church services. The company owned and operated the private Revloc police force, established in 1921. The police force is no longer in existence, as it was replaced later by the Cambria Township Police Unit.

To instill a sense of community, the immigrant miners, as one of their first acts, would organize churches. Securing lots from the company, the miners established three parishes in the Revloc Historic District. The Polish and Italian workers attended the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church (1924) and the Slovak workers attended the Greek Orthodox Church, which has been replaced with the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Revloc Presbyterian Church (1923) was also an important religious center primarily for the skilled workers and management officials. It is conveniently located on Highland Avenue, near management housing.

The Monroe Coal Company preferred the readily available immigrant workers due to their willingness to work for comparatively low wages and their limited exposure to labor unions. Like most operators, the Monroe Coal Company was anti-union. As the major landowner and employer in the Revloc area, the company used evictions, threats of eviction, company spies, and blacklisting to stifle union organizing activity. According to residents, the mine company never gave fair weight for coal, meaning that a discrepancy existed between the amount the coal miner obtained from the mine and the amount that he actually received payment for. The United Mine Workers of America sent organizers into the town of Revloc on several occasions, after which the company imposed a 9:00 P.M. curfew and brought in special Coal and Iron Police to patrol the streets. One resident detailed the brutal beating of an Eastern European immigrant intended to invoke fear of the company throughout the town (M.Cleaver, 1994) . In July 1922, the Revloc area miners joined the national coal strike at the urging of the United Mine Workers of America District 2 President John Brophy, a native of nearby Nanty Glo. The company answered with evictions, after which the workers were forced to establish tent camps on the outskirts of the town. In August 1922, the men were forced back to work at pre-strike conditions. It was not until after the New Deal and the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 that the UMWA organized the mine. Even then, the company would not allow the UMWA to build a hall in Revloc. Meetings were held in the basement of the Most Holy Redeemer Church until the union bought the former company store building in late 1952.

The Revloc Historic District compares favorably with two other model coal patches, Commodore (1919, Indiana County) and Coleman and Weaver's sister patch in Cambria County, Colver (1911). The three towns feature carefully planned towns with detached, wood-frame houses on large lots, plus associated mine buildings. The National Register Colver Historic District has the same isolated feeling as Revloc and the two patches compliment each other, illustrating the development of mines and patch communities by Coleman and Weaver in Cambria County during the early 20th century. Colver developed more rapidly than Revloc, and currently houses commercial businesses and various housing developments outside the main town. Revloc, on the other hand, contains no commercial businesses and remains relatively undeveloped in terms of new residential resources. The houses in the National Register Commodore Historic District (1919) and the houses in Revloc are similar in that they were both constructed with atypical building material. In the case of Commodore, the houses were constructed with concrete blocks. The Revloc houses, on the other hand, feature the atypical "fish (or fisk) lock tile" sheathing over the wood frame, which adds to its distinctive character. Commodore also contains only one extant mine building, whereas Revloc contains four relatively well-preserved mine buildings. The district is therefore comparable with other resources related to coal extraction, and worthy of listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Revloc Historic District is a distinctive, highly intact resource. A complete site, the Revloc Historic District features company housing, several of the original mine buildings, religious buildings, and community buildings like the Revloc School. Moreover, the historic district retains its feeling of semi-isolation, distinct from the rural atmosphere in northern Cambria County. With the exception of a few scattered ranch style houses, there has been surprisingly little infill. Revloc is a model company town that is significant under Criteria A and C for its association with the coal industry in Cambria County, in addition to its well-planned vernacular architecture and significant community planning and development.

References

Charles Vizzini, "Revloc Reunion," The Mountaineer Herald, July 17, 1975.

Shirley Carnahan, "The Story of Revloc," The Mountaineer Herald, August 20, 1954.

New Mining Town Described in 1917," The Mountaineer Herald, June 30, 1993.

Gerald M. Kuncio, The Colver Historic District National Register Nomination, January, 1993.

Microfilm of Fourteenth Census of Population, 1920, Pennsylvania, Bureau of the Census, Volumes 77 and 78, Cambria County, roll# T625-1545, pages 9A-14A (Cambria County Historical Society).

Margaret Mulrooney, A Legacy of Coal: The Coal Towns of Southwestern Pennsylvania (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1989), 1-5, 91-114.

Gray Fitzsimmons, ed., Blair and Cambria County, Pennsylvania: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1990), 13, 44-47.

S.H. Jencks, "A History or Record or Chronicle of the Cambria and Indiana Railroad and Connections and Coal Companies in Cambria and Adjoining Counties, Pennsylvania" (Cambria and Indiana Railroad, not published, no date).

Jerome White and Samuel Law, "The Coal Industry in Cambria county, Sesquicentennial of Cambria County, 1804-1954 (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania: not published, 1954).

Carmen Peter Diciccio, Bituminous Coal and Coke Resources of Pennsylvania, 1750-1945 (draft) (not published: Pennsylvania Bureau of Historical Preservation, 1994).

Glenn Reese (resident of Revloc). Interview by Karaleah Jones, 21 June 1994. Transcript. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Johnstown Regional Office.

Mike and Pauline Cleaver (residents of Revloc). Interview by Karaleah Jones, 21 June 1994. Transcript. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Johnstown Regional Office.

  1. Jones, Karaleah S., Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Revloc Historic District, nomination document, 1994, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Revloc Historic District Map

Street Names
Belair Street • Cambria Avenue • Edsel Street • Harding Avenue • Highland Avenue • Hudson Street • Nash Street • Packard Avenue • Penn Avenue • Wood Avenue

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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