Coal Mine Site
Dig into Altoona’s little-known history as a coal camp…
Since being incorporated as a city in 1876, Altoona has worn many hats: as a rail depot, a carriage route, a farming community, a slice of small-town Americana, and a destination for fun and adventure.

But Altoona has a way of surprising people, even those of us who know it best. Of our city’s many identities, there’s one that not even those of us who thought we knew everything about this town would have guessed…

…Once upon a time, Altoona was a coal camp.

In 1882, at a time when coal was the country’s primary source of energy, the Altoona Coal and Mining Company was born. The business started as a rather small operation—it had three employees, who were also the owners. But, as these men dug deeper and deeper below the surface of Altoona, they discovered a large vein of black gold.

Fast forward five years, and the company now employed 63 miners, nearly 20 percent of the town’s population at the time. In Altoona, coal was everywhere. So was the coal business—literally. As an Altoona resident, there was a good chance that the local mining company was operating right under your nose. Their subterranean network of mines extended beneath several residents’ properties, who received royalties for the right to use their land.

Although the Altoona mines closed long ago – the company ceased operations before the turn of the century, when some of their key tunnels were flooded – you can still visit Altoona’s historic Coal Mine Site. It has the nostalgic, somewhat eerie feeling you’d expect of an abandoned mine. And sometimes, if you stand still and listen closely, you can hear the faint echoes of pickaxes working the earth far below your feet.
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