Remembering North Main Street
Mahanoy City's Industrial Area
Thanks to all those who provided pictures for my journey back in time to North Main Street. Special thanks to those who grew up on North Main: Carol Gober Griechen, Joe Gober, Bob Brennan and to Mary Ellen Roberts Peel whose Uncle " Giffie" and Aunt Ethel Kenvin lived on North Main.
I spent the first six years of my life on North Main. Our family lived in the Silliman apartment building at 44 North Main until the spring of 1955 when we moved to Pine Street after the birth of my younger brother, Joe. I never realized I lived in a mansion that at one time had a fire place in almost every room. By the time I came on the scene only the fire place mantles remained in our apartment on the second floor. There was also a bowling alley in the basement. I don't think any other home in Mahanoy City had one.
I have two older brothers: John, born in 1946 and Bill, born in 1942. When I contacted Bill with a question about North Main he responded with the following e-mail.
" Hi Paul, It's ironic that you're working on a North Main St. project. Just this past week I, too, have been thinking about North Main St. in the 1950s, particularly about the "venues" where we played. I'm speaking of Mooney's Alley and Bolish's Hill, of course, and also the rear of Kaier's Brewery, which was a baseball site for many years, and the grassy area next to the Reading Railroad passenger station, which was a favorite football site, and the area in front of the bus barn, both baseball and football. I could go on, I guess. Then there's the sociological factor in living in a three-block area that contained eight saloons and one of the coal region's biggest breweries.
Living in the shadow of Kaier's multi-story brick tower had its pro's and con's. At Christmas time we enjoyed front-row exposure to all the carols that Kaier's beamed for many hours daily through its rooftop speakers. But then we also had to endure the deafening closeness of the town's fire whistle, a whistle that would get "stuck" in frigid weather and would groan on and on.
I lived on North Main for 11 years from the mid-1940's, probably 1944,until 1955. I guess your tenure was from 1949 until 1954 with a brief interlude in the spring of 1955. You can correct me if my recall is wrong. Of course, I remember Joe Gober and Carol, too. Carol was a bit older than me, but Joe was a daily playmate. Give them my regards.
The 1948 Mahanoy City Directory lists 96 families living on North Main and its side streets: Vine, Oak,Laurel,Beech and Birch. Locust alley next to the bus barn is also in the North Main part of town, but had no houses in 1948.Today there are no more than a dozen families in that part of town. That makes North Main the area of Mahanoy City most impacted by father time.
At one time or another the North Main Street area had : a brewery, two railroads, a bus barn ( trolley barn),a water company office, two collieries, a dress factory,a shirt factory, a bottling business ( besides Kaiers ), five slaughter houses, a stockyard, a national meat packing chain, at least eight bars, at least five hotels, a gas works, an electric plant and numerous other businesses both wholesale and retail. I estimate that that small area of town employed almost 2000 persons at its peak. The Mahanoy Colliery and the North Mahanoy Colliery alone employed over 1600 workers around the turn of the century. Much of that was gone by the time I arrived on the scene in 1949, but my dad worked at Kaiers and I remember miners returning from the Mahanoy Colliery in the early 1950s and I remember Centaks, Mickey Pucks, Nick Botocks, Murphys, Pasiekas, Brennans, Fogartys, Dorandas, Schaars, Fogel Bros, Mahanoy Wholesale, the bus barn, the dress factory and the P&R RR.
Hope you enjoy the trip back and will remember North Main.
Edward S. Silliman- A Biographical Sketch
From: J.H. Beer's Schuylkill County History
"Edward S. Silliman was born June 20, 1820, at Bern,
Berks Co., Pa.,
At about age 40 he purchased a
large tract of land in the vicinity of Mahanoy City from Biddle, Troutman &
Dundas, of Philadelphia, and coming to Mahanoy City about the beginning of
the Civil war undertook operations on his own account, being one of the first
to start mining in this part of the anthracite district. In all he operated seven
collieries in this section. In 1861 he sank the first shaft and built the first
breaker in the Mahanoy valley, opening what was then known as the Silliman
colliery — now known the North Mahanoy colliery, and the property of the Philadelphia
& Reading Coal & Iron Company. The nearest coal operators at that time
were ten miles away, at Girardville."
" The first shipment of coal for the new
breaker was made Ian. 14, 1862, and it was also the first shipment sent from
the territory within a radius of eight miles around Mahanoy City. The
annual production of this mine was 100,000 tons, and three hundred and fifty
men were employed, and Mr. Silliman and his father were profitably engaged
in its operation for a period of eight years, selling out then to the Crane Iron
Company, of Catasauqua, Pa. A little later a strike occurred among the work-
men and the breaker was burned, and not long afterward the present owners
acquired the property, which became one of the best paying collieries in the
"Through his efforts the First National
Bank of Mahanoy City was established Sept. 2, 1864, and he was one of the
most active members of its board of directors until within a few months of his
death, serving as president of the institution from 1866 to the close of his life
— a period of nearly forty years. It is situated at the northeast corner of Main
and Centre streets. He organized the Mahanoy City Water Company, which
furnishes the water supply for many neighboring collieries as well as for the
city, and served as president of the concern from the beginning, until his
death; he was one of the incorporators of the Mahanoy City Electric Light,
Heat and Power Company and of the Mahanoy City Gas Company."
"Mr. Silliman was a charter member of the Humane Hose Company, and
the organizer, in 1875, of the Silliman Guards (mustered in Nov. 27th of
that year), which still continue their existence as Company E, 8th Regiment,
P. N. G. He belonged to the Episcopal Church, and on political questions
supported the Republican party.
In 1858 Mr. Silliman married Siraha Keller, a native of Berks county,
who died in 1894 at Mahanoy City. His death occurred May 1, 1904, and they
are buried in the Charles Baber cemetery at Pottsville. Six children were bom
to this marriage : Ellen, who married George H. Jackson, of Philadelphia ;
Edward S.; Howard, who died in infancy; James Keller; Emily A., deceased
in infancy; and Charles, of Mahanoy City."
In 1891 there were five slaughterhouses in or near Butcher's Alley just off West Vine Street and there was a stockyard s just off the Lehigh Valley Railroad tracks nearby. The slaughterhouses supplied the numerous butchers and small grocers in Mahanoy City and the surrounding patches. In the 1890s Swift and Company started transporting butchered meat in refrigerated cars. This spelled the end of the small local slaughterhouses. By the late 1920s the stockyard and all the slaughterhouses were gone. In there place was the Swift Company which stood behind the Lehigh Valley freight station at the north end of Main Street.
Click below to enlarge the map.
Click below to enlarge the Kaier Panorama.
Revisiting North Main Street-2014