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Coalport Borough

Coalport Borough Hall is located at 961 Forest Street, Coalport PA 16627; phone: 814-672-5973.

Beginnings [1]

An early settler, James Haines, began purchasing farmland property in the area in 1876, and soon owned most of what is now Coalport. At this time several farm houses and outbuildings were already present here. In 1880 the Coalport Lumber Company was established. A Mr. Reilly was one of its founders and for a few years the settlement was known as Reilly. Before the railroads came to town, coal and lumber were transported to market on the adjacent Clearfield Creek by wooden rafts. It was this mode of transportation of coal from a "port" on the river that later effected the name Coalport.

The Pennsylvania & Northwestern Railroad pushed through to this part of the county in the early 1880's, running parallel with the eastern boundary of the historic district. It didn't take long for men like Samuel Hagarty, who operated seven mines in the area, to recognize a golden opportunity. He immediately opened a general store and a bank providing a commercial infrastructure for the town. The name Reilly was then changed to what the citizens deemed a more suitable title for the village, Coalport, which was incorporated in 1883. In the next five years the community boasted ninety coke ovens, at least six local coal mines and a diverse population as evidenced by the existence of five churches of different faiths. Four of the churches are outside of the district and the ovens and mines are not extant.

In August, 1898 the borough installed oil burning street lamps which were lighted each evening by the high constable. By 1901 many of the present commercial buildings on Main Street had been built, and Coalport was considered the economic center for the Glendale Valley.

With its small downtown consisting of numerous businesses, the Pennsylvania & Northwestern Railroad, and a few years later the Cresson & Irvona Railroad, Coalport experienced economic stability through the coming decades. The commercial establishments on Main Street served not only the townsfolk, but also engaged in buying and selling needed dry goods and produce with the farmers of the surrounding area. Some of the business concerns present on Main Street during this period included five general stores, two hotels, three barber shops, two hardware stores and two restaurants. The small remaining concentration of stores acts as the commercial center for the nearby communities of Rosebud, Utahville, and Irvona. Furthermore, the population of outlying Beccaria Township continues to shop here.

Shopping needs were met not only by the local independent merchants but also by the company store of the Cambria Smokeless Mining Company at the western corner of Spruce and Main Streets. This building still exists on this spot and presently houses a photography and dance studio. Small country bank mines located throughout the town, employing one to five men, existed before the railroad and continued to do business because of a ready local market made up of residents and businesses on Main Street. Coal was used for heating and for cooking. The blacksmiths of the early town also depended on this fossil fuel. Some of the older residents of town still remember the horse drawn wagons loaded with coal moving up and down the streets of town making deliveries. When the tracks were laid through town it became possible to ship coal on a larger scale using forty ton hopper cars. Coal mining shifted into high gear throughout the region.

Some of the small mine operators stayed afloat supplying the needed "house coal" in town, while others sold their mules and horses, choosing to work for a large colliery. The Cambria Smokeless Mine in town and the Irvona Coal and Coke Company, just north of the borough limits, were the first concerns to establish large scale coal mining. The reason for the word "Smokeless" in the name of the mine located one block east of Main Street remains unexplained. Several older citizens of town concur that coal from this mine smoked as much, when burned, as coal from any other mine. From 1887 to their closings around 1920, these mines employed between sixty and two hundred men and boys. Workers and their families needed housing and a means to purchase the necessities of life. The commercial establishments of the district expanded and new stores were being built rapidly. Train passengers arriving at and departing from Coalport every day also contributed to the Main Street business district economy. When commuters would arrive at the station without relatives or friends waiting for them, many would spend their money in the downtown stores buying food for the table that night or purchasing toys and gifts for nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Passengers catching trains for far away places or to a nearby town to visit or do business would also frequently do some last minute shopping here. Entertainment could readily be found at either of the two hotel bars in town on any given night.

  1. Wolt, Amy B. and Bartok, John, Northern Cambria Community Development Corp., Coalport Historic District, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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