Blocton Coke Ovens Park

A Short Ride to Blocton Coke Ovens Park

April 5, 2013 was a good riding day. Not only did Jerry take a ride from Centreville over to Vance, Alabama to see about the Skirmish at Trion, he also rode over to the town of West Blocton to visit the Blocton Coke Ovens Park. The park is located just outside of West Blocton on County Road 24 (also known as the Blocton Bypass). Drive slow as you can easily miss the entrance as it is not clearly marked in my opinion. There is a historical marker at the entrance that is visible from the road along with a metal lettered sign over the dirt road that leads into the park. A picture of the historical marker is below and the text of the marker is to the left.

"Originally opened in 1996, the West Blocton Coke Ovens Park is situated among the ruins of 467 ovens that were capable of producing 600 tons of coke daily. Construction on the ovens began in 1887 and the first coke was produced in 1888. The Blocton ovens complex was once one of the largest of its kind in the state. Coke is one of the three ingredients needed to make iron in a blast furnace, the others being iron ore and limestone. Coal was top-loaded into the ovens, heated to 2,800 degrees to burn off impurities, leaving coke which is almost pure carbon. Today the park features walking trails, picnic tables, a boardwalk and plenty of plants, trees and flowers. The natural beauty provides opportunities to exercise or relax while the historic beehive ovens provide an opportunity to learn about a key component in Alabama's industrial history. ... In the park are four rows of the remains of the Cahaba Coal Company's coke ovens. These beehive block ovens were not the earliest coke producing units in the Cahaba Coal Field but may very well have been the largest single installation. Placed end to end the ovens would have covered more than a mile's length." Source:

Not only are pictures available below of the Coke Ovens Park, but also a video. The video was recorded with a small helmet cam that was worn while touring the park. We know it is not the greatest quality video, but it will give you a view of the park nonetheless.

Blocton Coke Ovens Park

Historical Marker Text:

Construction began on the bee-hive coke ovens in 1887. Shortly before Woodstock Iron Company directors Samuel Noble, Alfred L. Tyler & W.S. Gurnee became large stockholders in the Cahaba Coal Mining Company to ensure a steady supply of fuel for two new coke furnaces at Anniston. When the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company acquired the Cahaba Company in 1892, 467 ovens were producing coke for furnaces at Oxmoor, Bessemer, Birmingham & Trussville as well. After U.S. Steel assumed control in 1907, the ovens operated intermittently for a short time. In 1985, large endwall stones were removed and later used in the restoration of the Civil War furnaces at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. The Town of West Blocton purchased the site in 1972 & 1997.

Centered around the coke ovens, Blocton, first called Gresham, was the Cahaba Coal Mining Company town founded by Truman H. Aldrich in 1883-84. Other company officers included W. A. Clark of Muscatine, Iowa, and Cornelius Cadle, Jr., the town's first postmaster. The first coal was shipped in February 1884. Ten coal mines were eventually opened, the last in 1915 by the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company division of U.S. Steel. In its heyday around 1900, Blocton was the largest company town in the Cahaba coal field and had nine churches, two depots, schools, fraternal lodges, a company store, waterworks, hospital and over 375 miners' houses. Blocton declined after U.S. Steel ceased operations in 1928.

The Coke Ovens Park has its own web site and it can be found here.