Archive for abandoned towns

Centralia Websites

Posted in In Pennsylvania with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Mj Rains

For those of you who haven’t heard of this abandoned town in Pennsylvania, here’s a quick rundown of its story. First and foremost, for those of you who also don’t know this, I am not a promoter of coal mining, clean coal, or any of that other bullshit we are hit with saying that coal is the alternative energy source we are looking for.  My dear grandfather was a miner for most of his life here in America, and he died from black lung, a disease from breathing in coal dust that literally makes your lungs turn black. I realize that now, though I’m not sure, regulations and protections of miners may be more advanced, but I’m still not a supporter. And this small town in PA, once thriving and simple and pretty is an example of the greed, and just general stupidity when it comes to coal in this region of the world.

Centralia is best known for the fire that is still burning underground since 1962. It all started when someone got the bright idea to create a pit to burn garbage. The garbage fire burnt through the ground eventually, igniting a large vein of coal that was underneath, a common thing in this coal rich area of the world. Eventually this doomed the town, for the coal continued to burn beneath the surface, causing hot spots, smoke and steam rising. The local people thought the fire was a problem, but did not realize the magnitude of what would happen. Although steps were taken to extinguish the fire, and for a short time was thought to be a success, the fire continued to burn through the vein, under the town and some of the outlying area.

In 1982, two decades after the fire started a boy fell though a sink-hole and was pulled to safety quickly. This was a tragic awakening for the town and drew attention of the state government who decided to consider “shutting down” the town of Centralia. Throughout the next decade over $3.3 million was spent trying to control the fire. The Office of Surface Mining estimated that it would cost much more to do the job, like $663 million to put the blaze out entirely. Instead PA spent $42 million dollars to buy out and relocate most of the residents of Centralia. More than 1,000 residents were relocated and 500 homes were destroyed. The population today stands at 10.  And these 10 people are fighting. You see, they don’t want to leave their homes which they’ve lived in for decades, nor have they experienced any bad health effects from living in this coal fire region. These residents have formed their own plan to take back the condemned town, which has now been officially taken off the map, no area codes, zip codes, etc.

Centralia in 2006. photo: Daniel Shumaker

This core group of residents have maintained that the fire is all but completely out. They have done their own studies, and their own law suit, saying that the area is safe to live in. There seems to be no smoke coming out of the ground. They contend that the fire has either burned itself out or has moved away. The thing is, there may have been some alternative reasons why the state did not go forth with getting this fire completely under control. It is estimated that the coal vein beneath the ground where the fire start would be worth over a billion dollars if mined, and a coal company had shown interest in purchasing the land once the residents of Centralia cleared out. So you see, people homes are less important than this filthy source of energy, one that made coal barons in PA at the turn of the century some of the richest people in the world. If the government is masking these ulterior motives and wishes to claim rights to the thousands of acres of coal so that it can be sold for an inestimable amount of money, well, we truly live in greed-filled times.

Centralia in 2008, looking pretty green…though abandoned….
photo: Donald Davis

In May of 2010, the last residents fought to keep their homes after an eviction notice was given by Governor at the time, Ed Rendell. The Centralia zip code was officially revoked, and a state appeals court told the group he had no jurisdiction to hear arguments for the residents to stay. As a last ditch effort, the people plan a federal lawsuit, and the Supreme Court may be asked to review the claims and intervene.

There is a church that remains in Centralia, in which priests outside the area come each Sunday to hold mass; St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.  It is one of the few public buildings still standing in Centralia.  A 100th anniversary of the church is planned for later this year, and I’ve read that the plan after that is to tear it down.

For this incredible story and well-presented information and photos on Centralia visit Carolyn Marteinssen’s website at

For more information and images of Centralia, visit

Article source: Burning Down the House by Rich Pietras for dtown Magazine (Doylestown PA.)

The “Abandonment” of Centralia

Posted in In Pennsylvania with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by Mj Rains

This town is not completely abandoned…not yet anyway.  And the few holding out may have a deep case of strong will, the will for what may be right.

For those unfamiliar with a town called Centralia in Pennsylvania it has a curious and heartbreaking history.  This once flourishing small town of American was pretty much wiped off the map by an underground mine fire.  This fire began in 1962 when someone set a dump on fire…which was not for some reason put out, and it subsequently spread into the network of coal mine tunnels that ran beneath the town.  Dangerous sinkholes and poisonous gases threatened the residents ability to live in the town. A relocation program was launched by the government, costing over $42 million and seemed to be complete by 1993.  But a few people held out, disregarding the eminent domain order.  And a few hold-outs are still there.  There may be more to this sad loss of a town than meets the eye. 

“Centralians have long believed the government’s demolition of their beloved town in the 1980s was part of a plot to swipe the mineral rights to anthracite coal worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” says this quote from Associated Press Writer Michael Rubinkam in a recent article.  The residents believe that the fire which started all those years ago was perhaps intentionally let go, with the results of today’s abandonment the justified plan for the state to take over the land rights as well as the mineral rights below the land for the potential money involved.  As of right now it is not clear who has the mineral rights.

Centralia - Then and Now

But a last-ditch effort has been launched by the few remaining residents, taking these conspiracy claims to court.  They claim that there are no gases leaking from the fire and they claim to have evidence which proves that it is “almost out” and is no longer a danger to themselves nor their homes.  Court documents state from the Department of Environment Protection  study of 2008 that toxic gases are no longer a problem for residents.  They also found the temperatures have gone down measurably.

These home owners do not want to leave their life-long homes and are making this last plea to be left alone.  “There is no mine fire or other related condition that justifies the taking of their property,” a petition said.   Still,  state officials insist that the fire remains a threat to health.

If this is a massive fraud to perpetuate the taking of homes and land that once was flourishing, all for the mining of a mineral that we should just well enough leave alone, it is a travesty of the human condition and thoughtlessness of greed which surrounds our government systems.  There is no question: something happened here.  A tragic fire started and was perhaps left go…more than 1000 people were relocated and 500 homes were destroyed.  Do these last survivors have a right to the dignified claims to their homes?

Once Centralia ceases to exist, the state could sell the mineral rights to a coal company and thus produce even more senseless strip mining in this country, the dangers of which are staggering.  With all this “clean coal” propaganda floating about, a bunch of bullshit if you ask me, Centralia could become “one of the most productive strip mine operations in the country.”  I’m praying  for the last residents. I hope they win.

Source: Centralia Residents Claim ‘Fraud’ -Times Leader- Michael Rubinkam, AP – 3/10/2010

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