When the house was constructed coal was a primary source of heat for residential and commercial structures. Each main room in the house had a small coal fireplace. Fire boxes for coal are much smaller than those for wood burning.
The house has 3 chimneys. 2 supported 6 fireplaces. The third supported the service side of the house including at least one cook-stove.
In all likelihood at some point the main source of heat shifted from the fireplaces to a coal burning furnace.
In 1989 the house underwent the most recent round of renovations and we know from at least that date on coal was no longer used in the house. We can assume the coal located in the basement hadn’t been touched in at least 30 years. A full room in the basement was piled high with coal 6’+ high. Based on the weight of the coal that ends up being roughly 60 tons of coal.
Fortunately, the coal acted like a giant charcoal filter and kept the basement relatively dry. In order for us to run new electrical, mechanical, and plumbing the coal had to be cleared out.
This is no small task as it had to be shoveled into buckets and hauled up a set of stairs. We contacted the Three River’s Rambler, a coal burning steam engine in town, but the size of the coal was too small for what they typically use. After hitting a dead end we published a FREE Craigslist post. Over the course of 6 weeks we were contacted by many interested parties. There were two types of people: those who still used coal to heat their homes and hobbyist blacksmiths. After hundreds of buckets and truck loads later the coal was fully removed and hauled off.
We were told by a coal enthusiast that the coal was from West Virginia and had a high burning efficiency. At some point out of desperation we considered paying someone to remove the coal and put it in a dumpster. We are so glad 1. we found free labor to remove it and 2. the coal is being used by people who really need it! What a waste it would have been to simply toss it out.