Then and Now: The Group Seeks to Preserve Archbald’s Story | News

A group is working to transform aging pieces of Archbald’s mining past into a park where people can learn about its history.

The Gravity Slope Colliery, located on Laurel Street, opened in 1913. At its peak, the mine employed approximately 1,700 men. It closed in 1955.

“It was the economic engine of Archbald Borough,” says Austin Burke, volunteer with the Gravity Slope Committee and former president of the Scranton Chamber of Commerce. “Almost everyone at least had parents who worked here.”

The site contains three buildings. The oil mill stored oil used in the mines to lubricate equipment and machinery. The miners used the mobile shack to change into and take off their work clothes and to shower after their shifts. The ventilator contained a large Guibal fan which sent cool air into the mines to prevent workers from breathing in harmful gases.

The Gravity Slope Committee originally planned to convert the oil house into a visitor center and the mobile slum into a museum and restore the fan house so visitors could learn about Archbald’s mining past. Recently they revamped their plans for the Oil House, hoping to see it become a small cafe to serve the residents of Archbald and people walking along the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail.

A structural study carried out by KBA Engineering showed that the structures were stable, although the weather had taken its toll on all three. So far, the Gravity Slope Committee has carried out work to renovate the Oil House, rebricking the building which had fallen into disrepair. They also installed a metal roof and new windows to help protect the structure.

The committee enlisted the help of architecture students from Marywood University to draft ideas on how to bring their vision to life.

Students in the fourth-year design studio course at Marywood are undertaking this project, focusing for now on the oil house. They began meeting with the committee in November, according to Joshua Berman, a Marywood professor who teaches the course.

“Students learn to work with a client,” Berman said. “The committee communicates to the students what they want out of it, and the students translate that into practical application.”

The committee is optimistic about the student’s interpretations.

“They shared a lot of insights that we never even thought of,” Burke said.

The plan itself is divided into three phases: conceptual planning, application for grant programs, and construction. Once the conceptual planning phase is complete, they will move on to securing funding for this project through grants.

“There are half a dozen grant programs with specific timelines,” Burke said. “When the conceptual phase is complete, we will determine which programs will be the best to apply for.”

The committee hopes the project ticks as many criteria as possible — including making it recreational, historic, and part of the nearby trail — in order to receive as many grants as possible for the project.

Until then, the Gravity Slope Committee and architecture students at Marywood will continue to collaborate on this project until they are satisfied with the concept.

“We are trying to save the history of this community,” says David Moran, chairman of Archbald Borough Council. “If we reintroduce it to the community, we can preserve its history.”

The Gravity Slope Committee also compiles a collection of artefacts from the mining era. Items can be donated permanently or given on loan. Donation forms are available by calling Archbald Borough at 570-876-1800. Articles should include personal information, each artifact will tell a particular story. All artifacts will be cataloged and those who donated them will be identified.

For more information on Gravity Slope Colliery and this project, visit archbaldboroughpa.gov/slope.htm.

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