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 Post subject: Article on the Girard Estate Building
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:27 pm 
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Legacy of 'America's 1st Tycoon' Continues
BY JOHN E. USALIS
Pottsville Republican & Herald
January 23, 2011

GIRARDVILLE -When driving through the northern Schuylkill County borough of Girardville along Mahanoy Avenue, an historic brick building stands out. It's not a large structure, but it is an important part of the county's 200-year history.

Keystone Anthracite Corp. owns the building, but for most of its 123-year existence it was the local office of Girard Estate. Built in 1888, the building has changed very little, even down to wrought iron fence surrounding the property.


Coal mining history is a big interest for Bob Burns, Keystone president/owner. When he stopped at the Girardville office last week, he began looking through a history called "Girard Estate Coal Lands in Pennsylvania 1801-1884," which was written by John N. Hoffman for the Smithsonian Institution as part of its "Studies in History and Technology" series. The monograph was published in 1972.


"It's a very interesting history. It tells how the heirs got some of the properties, then how they lost in the courts. It also shows how Girard got the lands from the state," said Burns. "When you read that book, it will open your eyes in what they (Girard Estate) really had, what the heirs took and lost. All of Reading Anthracite's property was Girard's."


It was a roundabout way that Burns became the building owner. Back in 1996, Girard Estate decided it wanted to get into the coal mining business and bought the Girardville Coal Co. and Burns Coal Co. It hired Burns as the general manager of the new Girard Coal Co.


The purchase led to the establishment of the Continental Mine near Girardville in 1997, followed by the construction of a coal breaker between Girardville and Lost Creek in 1998. However, in 2006, Girard Estate decided to get out of the coal business due to the economy and asked Burns to purchase the company back, which he did.


The purchase also included the Girardville office building.

"I've been actively mining on their property since 1972, and after 39 years, Girard Estate knew that I knew the property better than anybody," said Burns.


Restore and renovate


It wasn't until last year that the restoration and renovation work began on the building. It was completed it in November, Burns said.

Before the building was finished in 1888, it was used as a mule stable for the Army, which had the armory across the street. St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church and rectory stand there today.


When the building became the property of the company founded by Stephen Girard, the top floor was added.

Burns spoke of the work done in the building, from the restoration of the wood wainscoting along the walls to the removal of the drop ceilings to expose the original stained glass above the large windows. Inside, the original windows can be seen. Outside, Burns had double-pane windows installed to improve energy efficiency.


"This place really stays cozy and warm. We have the thermostats at 68 degrees," he said, also pointing to an active fireplace in his office that was installed with the building.


The lower level, which had been used by Girard Estate engineers, is being restored and should be ready in about a month. The top floor had held company records, which were removed when Keystone became the owner.


Burns said his son, company Vice President Bobby Burns, is discussing with Girard Estate to have some materials, including maps, brought back to where they belong in order to preserve those historical records.


"Stephen Girard was one of the wealthiest men in the world at that time," said Burns. "He was the hero during the War of 1812 by financing the Army. Of course, there was the founding of Girard College."


'First tycoon'


Girard has been identified as "America's First Tycoon" by author George Wilson, who wrote a biography of Girard in the 1990s.

Born in France, May 20, 1750, Girard is described as a "mariner, merchant and philanthropist" by Hoffman. His father, Capt. Pierre Girard, was a decorated ship's captain, and Stephen took to the sea in 1764 when he was 14.


His reason to head out to sea was partially to follow family tradition, and also to avoid his father when he was at home, since Pierre was a strict disciplinarian. He served on ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean many times, and by 1773, he received his license as a ship's captain.


While serving on ships, Girard began to try his hand at being a merchant, purchasing merchandise for sale at another port. His business ability caught the eye of Thomas Randall, a commissioned merchant, and hired Girard to sail with his ships between New Orleans and New York City.


On a trip in to New York City in July 1776, Girard learned of the British blockading that port, and in order to avoid a confrontation, he sailed up the Delaware River instead to Philadelphia, where he stayed when the Revolutionary War cut into the shipping. He opened a mall store in Philadelphia, becoming a commissioned merchant, although he stayed active in the shipping business, according to Hoffman.


Girard was married in 1777 to Mary Lum. He continued his merchant career, becoming very successful.

His concern for others led him to support charitable institutions.


Northumberland County was founded in 1772 and included all of the coal districts of the Mahanoy and Shenandoah valleys. Schuylkill County was created on March 18, 1811. The tracts that eventually came under the ownership of Girard were deeded in 1795 to John Nicholson and recorded in 1797 in the courthouse in Sunbury. The 68 tracts of land contained 27,471.5 acres. (An error in location of one of the tracts removed it from land package to 67.)


The land had been mortgaged to the First Bank of the United States in 1797. The bank foreclosed on the properties in 1800, and in 1801, Northumberland County Sheriff Henry Vanderslice transferred the tracts to the bank after a court hearing. The tracts were in the Catawissa, Mahanoy and Shenandoah valleys.

Becoming a banker


In 1811, the bank directors transferred the tracts to three men, who then conveyed the deed to 13 bank trustees. When the U.S. Congress refused to renew the charter of the First Bank, which was basically insolvent, "Girard, being the largest American stockholder, decided to enter the banking business and establish his own bank. He purchased the real estate of the demised bank, hired its employees, and received as deposits all the funds and accounts from the closed institution. He entered the banking business on May 12, 1812," wrote Hoffman.


That banking move at the time helped the United States finance the War of 1812.


Girard was acting as receiver of the First Bank and make final distribution of its assets, and he had almost completed the task, but a bundle of deeds from the First Bank assets he was unaware of were delivered to him in 1830.


According to Hoffman, "His (Girard's) investigation as to the reason for the delay in revealing the existence of these lands as belonging to the First Bank probably showed that coal had been discovered in the Pottsville region, mines had been opened, and that coal had been transported on the Schuylkill Canal since 1825. It would also seem possible that land speculators knowing of the coal discoveries had possibly influenced the trustees - or at least the trustees knowing of the existence of these deeds - to withhold any action on these tracts until the last possible moment. Undoubtedly, this information convinced Girard that these lands were valuable, and he decided that his business interests would be better served if he acquired them.


"The trustees had held the tracts for 19 years, and shortly after the deeds were turned over to the receiver, Girard, an advertisement appeared in the Philadelphia newspaper that these tracts of land deeded to them by the First Bank would be sold at public auction at the Merchant's Coffee House on April 17, 1830. The auction was held as scheduled and Stephen Girard, being the highest bidder, purchased the 67 tracts for $30,000."


According to the newspaper report of the auction, the turnout was good, but speculation was that the other bidders either couldn't afford it or they did not appreciate the value of the land. The transfer of the deeds to Girard were recorded in the courthouses of Schuylkill and Columbia counties.


The Girard lands were surveyed and maps were prepared, noting in the final report that the total acreage was calculated at 28,460.5 acres. On the maps, there were several notations referring to coal, according to Hoffman.


"Along the high ridge (Bear Ridge) lying between Mahanoy and Shenandoah creeks is written: 'This Mountain has every appearance of abounding in coal.' On the eastern section of the same ridge is the notation: 'Here the coal crops forty feet in width.' In later years, these statements were proven correct, for in this location three large collieries (William Penn, Packer No. 5 and East Bear Ridge) existed," wrote Hoffman.


Legacy continues


Girard died Dec. 26, 1832. The fight over his will continued for years, and in 1869 and in 1870, a "Board of City Trusts" of Philadelphia would administer all of the city's trusts, including the Girard Trust.

Burns said that the anthracite coal industry is not as large as it once was, but mining continues, although the only operations are in areas that had already been mined. He said there are no new mines being opened at this time.


"Keystone Anthracite has 30 years of coal reserves that we know of," said Burns. "And with the new technologies and as years go on, we can go deeper and deeper. I would say there are 50 to 70 years in reserves on the Girard Estate properties that will be removed."


Burns added, "We're producing about 400,000 tons a year, which is a lot for anthracite mining. We're the largest producer of deep-mine, strip anthracite coal in the state. Actually, in the United States."

Burns said most of the coal goes to the steel industries and is exported to China. There is another area that hard coal is used extensively.


"Anthracite coal is big in water filtration systems. Filters use coal to clean water," said Burns.

Article Link:
http://republicanherald.com/news/legacy ... -1.1093141

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:33 pm 
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Quote:
Burns added, "We're producing about 400,000 tons a year, which is a lot for anthracite mining. We're the largest producer of deep-mine, strip anthracite coal in the state. Actually, in the United States."

Somehow I find that very hard to believe

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:35 am 
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yeah that might be counting overburden too or something.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:57 pm 
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believe it or not, just looked at the production reports, 385,000 ton outta the continental pit in '08. 395,000 ton in '09, Not that far fetched when theres smaller operators making close to 100,00 ton a year with less men and equipment

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