17 May 2015

Coal Region Ghost Towns

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An elderly woman walks past the ruins of the former high school in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

WNEP 16 reports that several once-thriving communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region, including my own boyhood hometown, all one-time mining boom towns, are discovering that, after their economic raison d’être has disappeared, the population vanishes as well.

[S]ome communities in our region are fast becoming virtual ghost towns.

The proof comes from the 2010 U.S. Census which found in three area communities more than 25 percent of the homes and businesses sit vacant.

The three communities are in the heart of the coal region. All experienced population and employment losses in recent years that left hundreds of vacant houses and storefronts.

In Mahanoy City, Schuykill County, according to the U.S. Census, 26.3 percent of its homes sit vacant.

Just a block from the main street a home is selling for less than a price of a used car.

Shamokin, Northumberland County also has a vacancy rate of 26.3 percent. Afternoon traffic rarely stops on downtown blocks that increasingly see buildings for rent or for sale.

Shenandoah has the region’s highest vacancy rate at 28.9 percent. …

Empty lots. Empty businesses that closed years ago.

“It’s a great little town, but it has an image problem,” said realtor Erica Ramus. She has a hard time selling property in Shenandoah. “I’ve brought people up here to show them downtown properties as far as commercial, and the comment I’ve heard is, ‘Why would I want to move my business to a dying old coal town?'”

A typical Shenandoah block consists of an empty building, another vacant storefront, a doctor’s office, another vacant storefront, then a bank branch. People downtown said the neighborhoods are even bleaker. …

A drive through Shenandoah’s east side finds abandoned, unlivable homes. Others sit vacant for years, with little hope of finding a buyer.

A rowhome for sale is covered with newspapers from the year 2000.

“They’re not dead, but they’re certainly ill,” said Wilkes University economics professor Tony Liuzzo. He said the communities spiraling downward where jobs and people leave and vacant homes stay vacant.

“There’s an increase in pressure on the individuals who are remaining there and, of course, you don’t want to be the last one left holding the bag, so to speak,” Liuzzo added.

John Dopkin calls his east side Shenandoah block the loneliest place imaginable.

“I have no friends, all my friends are gone. I just lost my wife a year ago, and I’m waiting to go myself,” Dopkin added.


3 Feedbacks on "Coal Region Ghost Towns"


Same thing happened to Detroit. Absolutely no economic reason for existing other than old, aging people who refuse to move.

Cities come and cities go. Most of these places, Detroit included, weren’t much more than wide places in the road 150 years ago. Now without their industry or having the geographic locality compromised by modern transport, they continue more out of habit than reason.

Marcy O'Rourke

Is the coal mine actually no longer producing coal, or is it the victim of new government carbon regulations due to the whole Man caused Global Warming hoax? http://bit.ly/1L6zB9u


No, the last colliery in Shenandoah closed in 1954. Anthracite coal was replaced for domestic heating use widely from the 1940s onward by oil, and after WWII environmental regulations stopped the pumping and discharge of water from the mines into local watercourses. By then, all the remaining coal was below the water table. Nothing ever came along to replace the Coal Industry, younger people brain-drained away from the region in search of opportunity leaving fewer and fewer behind. The malls killed Main Street commerce.


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