Book takes tour of struc­tures, sites

New book takes read­ers on tour of lo­cal min­ing struc­tures, sites

The Republican Herald - - FRONT PAGE - by PAUL GOLIAS cor­re­spon­dent

One by one, the iconic land­marks of the an­thracite in­dus­try are dis­ap­pear­ing, some by the hands of man and oth­ers by the capri­cious­ness of na­ture.

Many break­ers and coal-town patches are things of mem­ory for those who lived in the later stages of the an­thracite era. For them and oth­ers too young to have ex­pe­ri­enced a Liver­pool patch vil­lage, the chron­i­clers of his­tory are build­ing a record, in words and photos, that will serve con­tem­po­rary and fu­ture de­sires to know what it meant to breath coal dust and live in coal coun­try.

Lorena Beniquez, an au­thor and pho­tog­ra­pher with ex­ten­sive Wy­oming Val­ley con­nec­tions, has con­trib­uted a solid and en­joy­able book, “Lost Coal Coun­try of North­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia.’’ It is unique in that its dozens of photos are her photos, all re­flect­ing a de­sire to share a close up and per­sonal tie to coal coun­try.

Beniquez shot some photos of the Hu­ber Breaker at Ash­ley one month be­fore its fi­nal struc­tures were razed in April 2014. That spurred her to be­gin shoot­ing photos for her book in a de­sire to “chron­i­cle his­tory be­fore it is gone.’’

She cred­its her mother, Sandra Shumway, Wilkes-barre, for

en­cour­ag­ing her to act. The re­sult, Beniquez said, is a book that she views as “a his­tory/tour guide.’’

“Lost Coal Coun­try of North­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia’’ is ded­i­cated to Beniquez’s coal min­ing great­grand­fa­ther, Ste­fano Pan­tano, of whom she has only scant knowl­edge. She does not know where he worked or when he died. He suf­fered from black lung dis­ease, ac­cord­ing to her mother.

Beniquez leads off the book with photos of the St. Ni­cholas Breaker near Ma­hanoy City. The de­te­ri­o­rat­ing breaker, which opened in 1931, is be­ing razed for its steel. It is the last of the large break­ers, she said.

The Hu­ber Breaker, which also was razed for the value of its steel, gets ex­ten­sive treat­ment. She in­cludes some of the fi­nal in­te­rior shots, show­ing the rust­ing pipes and walk­ways. A few of her blackand-white shots from years past re­veal the stark na­ture of the breaker’s ex­te­rior as bro­ken win­dows formed ghostly pat­terns.

The Knox Mine Disas­ter is re­called, al­beit with photos that show the Jenk­ins Town­ship land­scape where, in Jan­uary 1959, coal min­ers strug­gled to save en­tombed col­leagues. The same is true of Cen­tralia, the south­ern Columbia County coal town that was aban­doned and then lev­eled due to a deep mine fire that re­sisted ef­forts to douse it. Only a few peo­ple live in the area, Beniquez notes. Her photos show the stark ter­rain.

“We need to draw at­ten­tion to Cen­tralia,’’ Beniquez said. “It is dif­fi­cult to know what you are look­ing at,’’ she said, while urg­ing its des­ig­na­tion as a state his­tor­i­cal site.

Mean­while, she lauds the com­mon­wealth for do­ing “an amaz­ing job to keep the his­tory of Eck­ley alive.’’ Eck­ley Min­ers’ Vil­lage near Ha­zle­ton is a mar­velous ex­am­ple of coal patches, she said.

Eck­ley Min­ers’ Vil­lage has a coal breaker built specif­i­cally not for min­ing, but for the film­ing of the movie “The Molly Maguires,’’ which was shot in Eck­ley in 1970. Beniquez chuck­les as she tells the story of a visit to Eck­ley where a mil­i­tary vet­eran tak­ing in the vil­lage ap­proached her and said, “You know, that’s not a real breaker!’’

An­other coal patch, the unique Con­crete City at the Nan­ti­coke­hanover Town­ship bor­der, is shown in a se­ries of photos that high­light the re­sis­tance of the com­pany homes to na­ture’s best ef­forts to de­stroy them. Glen Alden Coal Co. built the con­crete struc­tures as an ex­per­i­ment that flopped.

Photos of Steam­town in Scran­ton cap­ture some of the rail­road his­tory of the re­gion. Beniquez’s pho­tog­ra­phy post-dates the Cen­tral of New Jersey Rail­road yard near the Hu­ber Breaker and the Ash­ley Planes over which coal was hauled in the 19th and 20th cen­turies. Also lost for­ever are the coal patches such as Liver­pool in Ash­ley.

Beniquez’s fa­ther, Jose Beniquez, re­sides in Wil­liamsport. She has two broth­ers, Nikita Shumway and Dana Shumway, in Wilkes-barre.

A grad­u­ate of Dal­las High School, Beniquez worked for the Dal­las Post and as a re­porter and Wil­liamsport bureau chief for WBRE-TV News. She cur­rently does free­lance writ­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy and she pro­duces and di­rects com­mer­cials for tele­vi­sion and news­pa­pers.

King’s Col­lege, Wilkes-barre, will hold an ex­hibit of Beniquez’s photos on Oct. 2 at its Whit­man Art Gallery. Photos from the book will be fea­tured.

associated press

Lorena Beniquez, au­thor of “Lost Coal Coun­try of North­east­ern Penn­syl­vana,” right, leads off the book with photos of the St. Ni­cholas Breaker near Ma­hanoy City. The de­te­ri­o­rat­ing breaker, which opened in 1931, is be­ing razed for its steel.

Mark Mo­ran /staff pho­tog­ra­pher

A chap­ter in Lorena Beniquez’ new book, “Lost Coal Coun­try in North­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, is ded­i­cated to the iconic Hu­ber Breaker in Ash­ley, Luzerne County.

eric Conover / STAFF Pho­tog­ra­pher

The breaker at Eck­ley Min­ers’ Vil­lage near Ha­zle­ton was never ac­tu­ally used to process coal. It is a mas­sive movie prop cre­ated in 1968 for the film­ing of the movie, “The Mol­lie Maguires” in Eck­ley.

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