The town of Redstone originally existed because of the historic coke ovens. Founded at the turn of the 20th century, Redstone was the vision and venture of one man: The “Fuel King of the West,” John Cleveland Osgood. Redstone a company town, constructed solely to house the men who worked the ovens and their families. After decades of not being used, these historic coke ovens have deteriorated due to weather, erosion, vandalism, and plant growth. To prevent further degradation, Pitkin County, teamed with JVA Incorporated, has designed and set in motion a Restoration and Stabilization Project of these historic landmarks.
These "Beehive" coke ovens were constructed in the late 1890s to carbonize (or "coke") coal mined in the Coal Basin mines to the west for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The coke ovens were constructed from firebrick and are known as “beehives” due to their resemblance to old beehives. Coal was loaded through a hole in the top and converted to coke by burning the coal in an oxygen-deficient environment. The coke was then removed through a second opening in the front of each oven and loaded onto rail cars and shipped to various locations for use in smelting ores and for the production of steel.
In order to prevent further degradation of the ovens, masons with expertise in historic preservation are stabilizing the ovens using masonry elements salvaged on site or from other sites. Where historic masonry elements are missing and cannot be obtained readily, reconstruction of those elements to match the historic elements is being performed. Ultimately, most of the brick ovens you see today will be stabilized with a few left untouched. The ovens with the grey concrete masonry walls in front of them will not be stabilized as they were modified drastically in the 1950’s and are not part of the historic district. Ultimately, about 50 ovens will be stabilized, and four will be completely restored.
The stabilization effort involves removing all vegetation from in and around the ovens, rebuilding a portion of the stone retaining wall, and reconstructing unstable portions of the ovens using salvaged bricks and recreated elements matching historic elements. Joints and cracks will be pointed with mortar. Grading and erosion control will be installed to stabilize soils and direct water away from the ovens.
Four of the ovens will be restored to their appearance when they were in use. This effort requires stabilizing the ovens; reconstructing the tunnel at the front of the ovens; and reconstructing the stone retaining wall to its original full height. In all cases, the reconstruction uses intact elements found on site or reconstructed elements based on historic photographs to ensure a historically accurate reconstruction in appearance, materials and workmanship. The restored ovens will help the visiting public understand what the ovens originally looked like and how they were operated.
The project is funded through community support and federal grants: Transportation Enhancement, American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, and National Scenic Byways.
A special thanks goes out to the community of Redstone
and all of the volunteers who participated in this preservation effort.