In the distance, one can see the four forms of energy that have powered the Mahanoy area throughout its history: timber, anthracite, coal refuse, and now wind. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).
We began the West End Walking Tour at the ruins of the St. Nicholas Colliery and Coal Breaker, and its opening, expansion, closing, and demolition tells the story of the rise and fall of Mahanoy City’s anthracite industry. As you stand in St. Mary’s Cemetery and look out into the Mahanoy Valley, you can see Central Pennsylvania’s landscape coming back to life after centuries of industrial exploitation.
The hills are lined with trees, a sign that the logging of Pennsylvania’s forests is a distant memory. Traces of the mining industry are still visible, particularly as you look to the west where the Blaschak Coal Company still operates a mine in St. Nicholas, but land reclamation projects are gradually using coal refuse as a new source of energy and turning heavily polluted areas into more sustainable landscapes. Yet, perhaps the most encouraging sign of the rebirth of Mahanoy City’s landscape — and the one which would have been the most pleasing to Kubek as an agronomist, beekeeper, and farmer — is the wind turbines that tower over the mountain ridges. In this sense, Kubek’s “No! We Won’t Die!” as a Mahanoy City poem reflects the determination, resiliency, and spirit of its people and landscape, both of which are continuing to find new ways to survive and thrive today.