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Boswell and Vicinity

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Boswell was founded to support the Merchant Coal Company's Orenda Mine No. 1, which opened in 1901 and employed over 900 men at its peak, most of whom were Slavs, Poles, and Italians. The company built housing and public buildings in addition to the necessary mine buildings. The housing mirrored company and social strata. Managers occupied stone-veneered, two-story, four-bay, gable-roofed houses like those at 224 and 230 Quemahoning Street. Most of the houses for workers with families were duplexes without heat, indoor plumbing, or electricity, and alternated between brick and frame construction to prevent whole blocks from burning in a major fire. Only one original frame house remains, while there are several extant brick models. The 200 block of Center Street is a good example of the mixture of old company houses and newer construction. The third class of workers was single men. Relegated to the outskirts of town, they lived in long, single-story, four-unit row houses built by the Eureka Lumber Company in 1911; each unit housed four men. Only a few of these buildings remain, and all have been significantly altered. Like most mining communities today, Boswell is recovering from the loss of heavy industry in the area. While six churches remain in the village, it is Orenda Park, lying north of Quemahoning Creek, that commemorates what was at one time the largest coal tipple in the world (c. 1901).

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.

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