Since it’s closing in 1976, The Huber Breaker in Ashley, PA has survived the ravages of time. The weather, vandalism and salvage operations have threatened its very existence. When the breaker is seen from Route 81, entering our valley from the south, one is reminded of the rich heritage we share in anthracite mining. When construction was completed in 1939, the breaker was the modern wonder of its time. It incorporated technological advancements as well as past architectural milestones that made it useful well past the expiration of deep mining in our area. This testament of longevity is precisely why the Huber is the last remaining coal breaker of that bygone era.
The largest breaker of its kind, built to process several local collierys’ anthracite coal, it also includes six Menzies Cones for coal separation from the culm which accumulated from years of storing mining refuse. Today we see this culm pile reclamation in the form of breaker-like washeries that are rebuilt from site to site, reducing mountains of black coal and rock mixture in a matter of a few years. Additionally, Huber’s construction incorporated the use of enormous amounts of window glass which aided in the utilization of daylight and most importantly tar coated sheet metal which made the breaker nearly impervious to the elements. This rust proofing was the reason recent architectural tests have proved it to be structurally sound and a fine candidate for present day restoration for future generations to appreciate.
The cause to save the Huber began in the early 90’s, and the Huber Breaker Preservation Society (HBSP) gained momentum by establishing itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, and by securing three acres of land adjacent to the breaker in order to develop an Anthracite Miners’ Memorial Park and Museum.
Unfortunately, the HBPS lost its bid to purchase the breaker and 8 acres of land it was situated on for $25,000 in a final attempt to save the landmark. A Philadelphia salvage dealer named Paselo Logistics LLC. bid $1.28 million for the breaker and 26.58 acres of land in August 2013 and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the sale. The demolition of the breaker started January 24, 2014. In September 2005, Scranton based Kanton Realty estimated the 900 tons of steel in the breaker had a scrap value of $85,000.
The Huber Breaker’s main building was demolished on April 24, 2014. The last structure of the colliery, the powerhouse, was demolished in August 2014. The issue of whether asbestos was properly handled during demolition is still generating controversy among Ashley Borough residents, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.