The history of “Coketown” was well documented by Douglas Waugh in his article cited below. The LaBelle Coke Plant was constructed between 1915-1917 and became part of the Wheeling Steel Corporation in 1920. The plant encountered a shortage of local employees and was forced to hire workers outside the Follansbee area. Follansbee was a fairly small community and most of the population was already employed at Follansbee Steel and other factories.
The labor shortage was solved when Wheeling Steel obtained a 600-foot strip of land from its subsidiary the LaBelle Iron Works of Steubenville. The property was ideally situated opposite the Coke Plant on route 2. Wheeling Steel began building a company town with inexpensive housing around 1921. However the actual sale of the land was not official until 1923. Wheeling Steel obtained a number of prefabricated houses that were erected on the new property. Out-of-town employees were quickly hired and occupied the houses. The little community became known as “Coketown.” The houses were arranged in rows of five each. Out-houses and coal storage sheds were constructed, one out-house for every two homes. The new residents paid for their homes through deductions from their paychecks. The plant assumed most of the responsibility for the maintenance of the buildings. In all, there were 20 houses in Coketown.
Locals who remember Coketown will recall the filthy smoke from the coke plant that prevailed throughout the small community. “Coketown women dusted twice a day.” After four decades of unhealthy environmental living conditions and the gradual deteriorating state of the houses, Wheeling Steel gave public notice that the dwellings would be condemned as each house was vacated. The last houses were vacated by 1969.
- Douglas Waugh, “Coketown” A Reconstructed History, (On-line) http://www.brookecountywvgenealogy.org/coketown.html