Carrick and all of South Pittsburgh were built on coal mining that kept homes warm and fed Pittsburgh industry. The legacy of all those mines remains with us today.
The area exists over the Pittsburgh Coal Seam, which was named for the coal that can be seen on the sheer northern face of Mt Washington. Mt Washington used to be named Coal Hill. The seam extends from Maryland west to Ohio and from Allegheny County south into West Virginia.
Volunteers Field sits on mine waste produced when Carrick was mined out by the Keeling Coal Company back when that neighborhood was known as Spiketown. The Bausman mine ran from Spiketown to 12th Street in what is now the South Side.
I’ve lived in this area all my life (actually grew up on Parkwood Road) and I love it. My mother always worried about us kids playing at the bottom of our backyard because she thought the ground might cave in from the mines below.
Posted to the Carrick Google Group by Karla Voigt in 2009
A working mine on Maytide Street was active into the 1930s. The mine went under Ester Street, Sunnyland and Brownsville Road. One resident wrote in the Carrick Google Group that the entrance – now sealed off – was in their basement and their back yard often caves in.
Local residents have told Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society that they’ve mined coal out of their basements.
Mines in the area in the early 1800s weren’t dug deep. A shallow mine was worked in Overbrook in the Elwyn section. The former Elwyn mine was sealed when a stretch of Library Road (Route 88) was reconfigured by PennDOT in 2007.
Hundred of small coal mines across South Pittsburgh worked the same large seam. Coal mining drove the growth of Brookline. The neighborhood became part of Pittsburgh. Trolley service came along. The Brookline Boulevard business district sprouted.
Numerous mines were also located along Edgebrook Avenue and along the hillsides of West Liberty Avenue in Brookline.
By then, Carrick was a borough and then a high-income Pittsburgh neighborhood. Mansions were built by owners and managers of coal and steel business, and thriving South Side merchants.
Coal was abundant. Small mines, many of them not documented, produced coal for cheap home heating. Burning all that coal in the 1800s and 1900s left a haze of smoke hanging over the area.
Large operations fed Pittsburgh industry.
The Pittsburgh Coal Company operated “D” Mine in Horning (now Baldwin Borough) when a deadly explosion erupted in 1926. There was labor unrest in 1928. The company also operated mines at Becks Run.
The Castle Shannon Coal Company owned mines along Library Road, including one between Killarney Avenue and Grove Road.
Coal Road was an underground railroad for moving coal during the 1800s. It started in the South Hills and ended at the Monongahela River. Coal Road passed over Parkwood Road, under Mt Oliver and over Wagner Street – although those streets didn’t exist then. It passed through St Clair. It connected to the Bausman mine. The coal was sent down an incline that ended near a location of the Sankey Brick Company. Another incline to transport coal ran parallel to the Mt Oliver Incline.
Tapping out the Pittsburgh Coal Seam and the onslaught of the Great Depression of the 1930s pretty much ended coal mining in the area. Empty spaces were left underneath Carrick. Today, homes are at risk for cracked foundations and could sink into the ground from mine subsidence, as happened in Mt Oliver in 2013.
Repairs to land damaged by mine subsidence is paid for by the state, while repairs to houses and other structures damaged by mine subsidence are paid for by the landowners. Homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover mine subsidence damages. Mine Subsidence Insurance from the state Department of Environmental Protection pays homeowners for losses caused by mine subsidence. It costs about 55 cents a year for every $1,000 of coverage.
Quality coal was mined throughout Carrick and South Pittsburgh. It fueled residential coal furnaces and it fueled industry. What’s left today are empty spaces underneath the area.