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Centralia PHotoJournalism Roadtrip 2013

Photos by Emily Ganser

Table of Contents 3-5






B a c k g r o u n d

Centralia, located in northeast Pennsylvania, was established as a borough in 1866. The anthracite coal industry served as the main source of employement in the area. In 1950 Centralia gained rights to all the coal mines under the town. In this year, the town also had close to 2,000 residents.

The photo above, of the Logan Colliery, was taken in 1881. The factory was located about a half mile west of Centralia. It employed over 575 workers at the time. (previous & above)Photo Credit: Thomas Dempsey 4

The Fire In 1962 the town was burning some of their landfill as a part of an annual town clean-up. The firemen lit the fire in an unsealed area that led to the coal mines beneath the town. The coal mines went ablaze and it wasn’t until 1979, when the town became fully aware of the danger they were in. The fire became a public affair when a 12-year-old boy, Tom Domboski fell in a 150-foot deep sinkhole in his backyard in 1981. His older cousin pulled him out before he fell all the way into the hole, which was found to contain lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

Right: Pipes were put in the ground at the source of the fire to let the smoke out from under the ground. The pipes still remain at the fire origin, where trees are beginning to spread again.









Right and left: Smoke continues to rise from sink holes, overlooking Centralia.

The harmful gases rising from the The toxic gases rising from the ground led to governement action to get residents out of the town.

Residents were paid from $200,000 to $300,000 to relocate away from Centralia. Most moved to nearby towns such as Ashland and Mount Caramel. Although, most of the residents moved, there are three families that continue to live in the abandoned town. The town is no longer a borough,which leaves the mineral rights to the Commonweath of Pennsylvania. Supposely, whats left of the coal is worth millions of dollars.

Below: One of the homes that remain in Centralia, not far from the origin of the fire.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin


n Mary, Russian Orthodox Church


(previous and below): Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church is one of the only remaining buildings in the town. It rests upon a hill over-looking Centralia.The Church was remodeled after a storm destroyed the orginal domes. It still holds one 11:00am mass every Sunday.

Stairs leading down from St. Mary’s Church onto Center Street. 13

St. Mary’s Cemetary

Photo Credit: Thomas Dempsey

The photo on the left is of Locust Avenue in 1896, one of the main streets in Centralia.

Locust Avenue, like most of the streets in Centralia, is desolate. Most roads are now dead ends.


(left) Just one of the many contributions to the graffiti that covers the old Highway 61, leading up to Centralia: “This was once the land of dreams. Now these dreams have turned to greed...�

(right) Up until a few months ago, these large fissures in the highway had visable smoke steaming from them. Today, the old highway serves as a place for people to ride their 4-wheelers.


Dirt roads lead onto and around the old Highway 61. These paths are now transformed into 4-wheeler and dirt bike playgrounds for the local residents.








(previous)A time capsule is buried beneath the land that was once the property of the town’s legion, which is no longer there. The capsule, buried in 1966, will be opened in 2016.

Locust Ridge On a ridge that overlooks Centralia, a series of windmills form the largest wind farm in Pennsylvania. Locust Ridge Turbine Farm, which began in 2006, stretches from Columbia County into Schuylkill County. The windmills are over 100 feet high and produce enough electricity to provide power to 40,000 homes.


One of Centralia’s only remaining memorials is along the road that leads into the town. The Reilley Family, who were previous residents of Centralia, take care of the memorial. The Mary statue in the glass case is often stolen or vandalized, however, the family continues to care for the site. The upkeep of the memorial seems to set a sense of respect for visitors upon entering Centralia.


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