Mount Carmel is known as the “Town of Many Churches” for its skyline filled with the spires of twenty-three churches crammed into one square mile. The discovery of anthracite in the 1840s made the site ripe for development. Local politicians and entrepreneurs quickly formed a land company to purchase the tract near the coal mine and establish the town. Laid out on a grid plan with streets named for trees and numbers, it lacked the typical central axis.
In 1859, Thomas M. Righter opened the Mt. Carmel Colliery (later known as Lehigh Valley Coal Company) east of the town. His Victorian mansion, greatly altered, stands on 6th and Main streets. Patrick Donohue, operator of the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, built a stone Gothic Revival house for himself and, in 1863, a block known as “Donohue's Row” (S. Turnpike Street between 6th and 7th streets) to house miners. By the 1880s, local miners were joined by thousands of Tyrolean Italians, Lithuanians, Poles, Slovaks, and Ukrainians. Mount Carmel is also significant in the history of electric lighting. A power plant for Thomas Edison's electric light system was in 1883 on the corner of S. Maple and W. 4th streets (where St. Stephen's Episcopal Church now stands), and, in 1892, Mount Carmel became one of the first towns in the world with electric street lights.
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