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Project Perspective


Why were Windber and Scalp Level selected to represent coal mining in America's Industrial Heritage Project?


Scalp Level's Eureka Mine 40 was one of Berwind-White's biggest producers, and is one of the most intact early 20th century drift coal mines in existence. The mine's above ground structures and machinery (a tipple and separator, motor barn, fan house, railroad car repair shop, and wash house - all from the 1920's and 1930's) illustrate the nature and evolution of technology in bituminous coal mining, and the existence of the nearby coal patch community exemplifies the relationship between the mining industry and the associated life style of miners and their families.


Windber has a unique and special opportunity to serve as a focal point for the story of all aspects of a coal mining company headquarters town. It sprang up virtually overnight and was literally a self-contained community representing all that was notable about the Berwind-White coal mining company. Today, Windber still reflects the influence of Berwind-White at the height of its operations - e.g. public and private buildings, houses, churches, schools, ethnic diversity, and a local populace that is personally associated with coal mining.


However, Windber was not the "typical" company town. Although the company provided all the necessities of life for its workers - through the Eureka store, the rows of company-provided houses, and its own bank, hospital, library, and recreational facilities - the company also encouraged and provided space for competing commercial and financial enterprises. In addition, the compay built large, attractive houses as part of a package to induce doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals to settle in Windber.


But Windber also shared many of the characteristics of other coal towns. It's housing was typical - management and prominent businessmen lived in large homes with spacious yards and trees, while mining employees lived in simple, 2-1/2 story wood duplexes. Berwind-White's management approach was also typical - with problems including the denial of civil liberties and the inability of residents to protest unfair labor practices and poor living conditions for fear of eviction and blacklisting.


The entire mining complex in the Windber/Scalp Level area can provide visitors with an understanding of the regional and national significance of the coal mining industry. Historical interpretation here, focusing on transportation, processing, and marketing factors, leads to a heightened appreciation of the role coal played in the nation's development. The social issues associated with life in company towns, the growth and influence of labor unions, and the meaning of the coal mining heritage can be explored through interpretation of the layout, use patterns, and management of the coal patch towns themselves in relation to the headquarters town of Windber.