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Mount Pleasant


The Mount Pleasant Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Text, below, was selected and transcribed from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Mt. Pleasant Historic District is located ten miles west of Pottsville in western Schuylkill County. It is a small mining village of mostly residential buildings laid out along both sides of Township Road 881 (Old Airport Road) southwesterly 750 feet from this road's intersection with State Route 901. The hamlet sits two thirds of the way down the two-mile long, gentle southern slope of Broad Mountain. Dense woods cover the mountain slope and encroach on the edges of TR 881 and the rear edges of most buildings in Mt. Pleasant. Abandoned strip mines extend under the forest cover southwest, east and southeast, with strip mining currently underway downhill to the southwest and in the valley floor to the southeast. The historic district contains five stone and six frame buildings erected with one exception between the 1830s and 1860s. The buildings are two to two and one half stories tall, two to six bays wide, with very plain vernacular facades. The historic district has fair integrity. Most buildings have deteriorated through lack of maintenance or abandonment, and one former stone building has collapsed into a ruin. Only two frame buildings are non-contributing due to their twentieth century dates of construction.

Four of the five stone houses are duplexes spaced at regular intervals close to the northwest edge of TR 881. Each of the four buildings is four bays wide by two bays deep, with a gable roof covering the front half and a cat slide roof sloping down to one and one half stories on the rear half. The sagging roofs are covered with tar paper. The front facades are punctuated by four windows on the second floor, and two doors flanking two center windows on the first floor. Side elevations are pierced by a window toward the rear of the second story, and a window and door on the first floor. Windows have 2/2 or 1/1 sash. Window and door frames are flat wood and doors are panelled or have one large light. Walls consist of rubble stone with larger stone quoins. All four buildings have small one story shed-roofed frame additions recessed back from the front wall and extending from one or both side doors. One of the four stone duplexes also has two shed-roofed frame porches extending across the first story of the front facade. One other stone building is located south of TR 881 alongside SR 901. It is a smaller two bay by two bay, single unit version of the four stone duplexes. It too has a small one story frame addition extending off one gable end.

The five frame contributing buildings are located close to the southeast edge of TR 881 or the southwest edge of SR 901. Two buildings located farthest from SR 901 closely resemble the stone duplexes but constructed in wood. They have the same massing, scale, roofs, doors, windows and one story frame additions as appear on the stone duplexes. They are sided with weatherboard or other siding such as fish scale shingles. A third frame building that faces SR 901 is two bays wide by three bays deep and two story stories high with a shed roof. The building has been covered with asphalt shingles but the molding and brackets under the eaves remain intact. This house has a simple front porch supported by plain wooden posts, and one story shed-roofed frame additions on the gable ends. A two and one half story five bay by six bay gable roofed building used as a house and bar is located at the southwest corner of TR 881 and SR 901. This building has a large window in the front first story facade, double hung aluminum replacement windows on the remainder of the elevations, and panelled doors with single lights. This building has been resided with aluminum siding, except for the lower third of the first story which is covered with artificial stone. Just to the west of the house/bar is a two and one half story frame residential building. The front elevation is punctuated by eight evenly spaced double hung windows on the second story, and four double hung windows and three panelled doors on the first floor. This shed-roofed building is also clad in aluminum siding.

The ruin is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of TR 881 and SR 901. This ruin was once a two and one half story stone house three bays wide and two bays deep. In recent years it caved in. Most of one wall and portions of two other walls surround the rubble remains of the collapsed sections.

Although the district's integrity has suffered primarily through neglect and abandonment, it can still be readily recognized as an early to mid-nineteenth century village. The stone buildings and two frame buildings have had late nineteenth or twentieth century fame sections added; however, with the exception of two front portions on one stone duplex, these additions are small and do not detract greatly from the historic appearance of the buildings. Two frame buildings have been covered with aluminum siding; nevertheless, their original functions as residential and mixed use buildings are quite apparent. These two frame buildings also retain their original forms and orientations toward TR 881 and SR 901. The most serious threat to the district's integrity comes from abandonment and lack of maintenance. In addition to the house that is in ruins, the front right corner of a stone duplex has collapsed. Mortar in all the stone buildings is in great need of repair, and door and window frames have seriously deteriorated on all buildings except for the aluminum sided edifices. Only two small non-contributing buildings are located in the historic district. One is a twentieth century, dilapidated, one story two bay home that is dwarfed by the stone duplex next to it. The second is a small, one story gable roofed outbuilding.

Significance

Mount Pleasant Historic District is an important example of the evolution of the coal mining industry in Schuylkill County and of local vernacular architecture. The village, which was begun during the 1830s, is a representative of the early development of the Southern Field in Schuylkill County during the 1820s to 1840s, a period when the Southern Field was the most important anthracite field in Pennsylvania. It is the only known intact example of the early evolution of coal mining in western Schuylkill County. Mt. Pleasant also includes a rare collection of architecture, vernacular stone houses, which was once an important type of housing in western Schuylkill County mining villages.

The village of Mount Pleasant is located in the Southern Field, an anthracite field which traverses central Schuylkill County from the northeast to the southwest. This field produced more coal from the 1820s to the 1840s than any other area in Pennsylvania's anthracite industry. The completion of the Schuylkill Canal in 1825 from Pottsville to Philadelphia opened the central part of the Southern Field to early commercial exploitation. Roads and horse drawn railroads connected small mines in the central part of the Southern Field to the canal during the late 1820s and 1830s. As urban markets such as Philadelphia discovered the advantages of burning coal, production in the Southern Field soared from less than 100,000 tons in 1829 to more than 3,300,000 tons in 1842. Coal mining in the Southern Field far outstripped production in other anthracite fields to the northeast. In 1842 the Southern Field produced almost three fifths of the coal mined in the anthracite fields.

With the development of the Southern Field, company towns and mining patches were built around or near coal mines, providing housing for mine workers and their families. In the early 1830s John Graham, a Mt. Pleasant mine operator, created the mining patch of Mt.. Pleasant, then known as Monterey. He built a stone house for himself (the present-day ruins at the northwest corner of SR 901 and TR 881), as well as stone duplexes and a detached house for his employees and their families. Graham's small mining patch prospered through the 1860s, when additional frame houses and a hotel were erected. Mt. Pleasant served as Foster Township's post-village after the township was created in 1855. However, during the 1870s the village went into rapid decline. In 1871 the mining patch ceased being the township's post-village. The Mt. Pleasant Colliery stopped operating in the mid-1870s when it was acquired by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, a subsidiary of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, closed the Mt. Pleasant Colliery apparently because the mine could not compete with larger collieries located closer to rail lines in Schuylkill County. By the 1880s most workers had left Mt. Pleasant. The mining patch was described in an 1881 county history as a village of "mostly plain stone structures, many of them unoccupied," and as one of Schuylkill County's mining villages that was no longer as "well populated as they once were."

By the 1880s Schuylkill County and the Southern Field had lost their pre-eminent position in the production of anthracite coal. The Western Middle, Eastern Middle and Northern Fields were developed to the north and northeast of the Southern Field. Railroads, such as the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the Lehigh Valley Railroad, constructed lines into these other coal fields and the Southern Field, making large scale mining in all anthracite fields possible. Beginning in the 1850s many new mines were opened and larger company towns were erected in the four fields. Smaller mines such as the Mount Pleasant Colliery were bought out or went out of business. The Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company purchased thousands of acres of coal land in Schuylkill County and closed mines that could not compete with its larger collieries.

Mount Pleasant remains today as the last intact village from the early evolution of the Southern Field when small coal patches flourished. Most of the early mining villages in western Schuylkill County have been greatly altered or demolished. For example, Wadesville in New Castle Township was established as a mining patch by the 1830s. However, few if any of the early buildings in this village remain. Those buildings that still stand in Wadesville are mostly greatly altered mid-nineteenth century houses or later nineteenth and early twentieth century homes. Similarly, New Castle was a mining patch begun in 1830 in New Castle Township. Only three small frame houses and a number of house foundations constitute the remains of New Castle. Branch Dale in Reilly Township was begun in 1836 also as a mining settlement. Only two small stone buildings can be readily identified as dating from this time period. A much larger number of buildings date from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. Among early mining patches in western Schuylkill County, only Mount Pleasant has most of its early buildings intact. Mount Pleasant is also the only village that has not had its early buildings subsumed by a much larger number of later buildings.

Mount Pleasant also contains an important form of architecture, vernacular stone houses, which is today quite rare in western Schuylkill County coal towns. The vast majority of houses that appear in mining patches today are frame vernacular buildings. During the 1820s to 1850s more stone houses than presently appear were constructed in mining villages. Stone houses were built during the mid-nineteenth century in the mining town of Locust Dale in Butler Township, for instance. Glen Carbon, another mining patch in Foster Township, was also established by the mid-nineteenth century. An 1881 county history described Glen Carbon as being built of stone like Mt. Pleasant. However, most other collections of early stone houses have been demolished or greatly altered. The stone houses in Glen Carbon have disappeared. Only two early stone buildings remain in Branch Dale. Locust Dale contains a small collection of vernacular stone homes. Even in their deteriorated condition. Mt. Pleasant contains one of the last collections of stone mining houses left in western Schuylkill County.

Thus, the Mt. Pleasant Historic District stands out as the last intact representative in western Schuylkill County of an important chapter in the county's industrial history. Mt Pleasant also contains a fairly rare collection of an important type of vernacular architecture in western Schuylkill County.

References

F.W. Beers, Atlas of Schuylkill County (F.W. Beers and Company, 1874).

Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Mount Pleasant, A Welsh Mining Village in Foster Township (Avoca, Pa.: March 1981), pp. 7-11.

Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County Historic/Architectural Site Survey: Preliminary Report (Avoca, Pa.: September, 1980), pp. 1-7, 9, 13, 15 and 37.

Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Transportation in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1776-1976 (Avoca, Pa.: 1979), pp. 111-8, 24; IV-79 ff.

History of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (New York: Munsell and Company, 1881), pp. 215-216.

H.R.B. Singer, Inc., Atlas of Mining Activities, 1975.

Joseph S. Ward and Associates, Geological Inventory of Northeastern Pennsylvania (Avoca ,Pa.: 1975) , Appendix.

  1. Ramsauer, Gabrielle and Sisson, William, Mount Pleasant Historic District, 1987, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Mount Pleasant Map

Street Names
Pleasant Road • Sunbury Road

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