MOUNT VERNON - It was another day of work for City of Mount Vernon Street Department Superintendent Tom Hinkle and his crew as they began preparing the ground for new traffic signal poles at the intersection of South Main Street and Gambier.
However, Hinkle’s crew noticed something peculiar about their work - it was much easier to dig than they expected. It was then that the crew discovered something that had not been seen for several decades. Just below the surface of the sidewalk on the Northwest corner of the intersection, Hinkle found a long lost piece of an infrastructure system that was common in many communities across the country and certainly in Mount Vernon.
Three brick-lined coal chutes were uncovered leading to a vacated old hallway beneath the former Pitkins Corner now home to Lincoln Douglas and Creative Foundations at 135 South Main Street. The coal chutes housed bulk coal to heat different parts of the building.
Similarly, when work at the historic Woodward Building took place, coal chutes were uncovered at the intersection of South Main and Vine Street during their building renovation.
“It’s neat to be able to glimpse into our past,” Hinkle said. “Sometimes, we never know what we’re about to uncover when we start digging around in the city.”
Mount Vernon Mayor Matt Starr added that business continues to be open despite the construction.
“Temporarily, we’re reassigning two parking spaces along South Main Street for Creative Foundations so they can continue business,” Starr said. “When the concrete pours are complete, then they [Creative Foundations] will resume using the two spaces on West Gambier.
"It’s a safety measure to make sure that their customers and staff can safely get to their business.”