Ash Pits and Coal ChutesMay 9, 2013
Coal powered the industrial revolution in its beginnings in England, during its American continuation in New England and down the east coast. Coal facilitated the rust belt’s rise, and remarkably remains the dominant source of energy worldwide today. St. Louis is currently home to several large coal companies including Peabody, Patriot and Arch, but the heyday of coal usage in St. Louis (and the US) is in the past.
At the middle of the 20th century most homes in the area were heated by coal (National use peaked around 1940, St. Louis experienced the worst side effects in late 1939). I’ve heard stories about horse drawn wagons traversing the alleyways of St. Louis and dispersing various grades of coal to its consumers at least until that time. Some reminders of this era remain, notably the coal chute doors (often marked by brand names like Banner, Schurk, Manchester, Mechanics or Majestic) that can be spotted on houses in every neighborhood of the city and in many parts of St. Louis County.
Ash pits are slightly harder to notice due to their placement on alleys, but are nonetheless an ever-present reminder of our coal heritage. The most recognizable and common model of ash pit in the city is P.A. Shorb’s:
See more photos of these relics below:
Older in the Gate District:
Adapted to modern usage:
Ash Pit with Cacti:
For more photos of Coal Chutes and Ash Pits see my flickr set.