Eclipse Company Town
Visit an old coal-company operation in Athens County that’s been repurposed for modern times.
Jon Sowash was always intrigued by the cluster of identical white houses on Johnson Road, just off state Route 33 near Athens. In 1997, he and two friends convinced the former owner to sell them the houses, site and the rest of the buildings on it, so they could moonlight as historical preservationists. More than 20 years into its restoration, the 4-acre property, known as the Eclipse Company Town, attracts bikers from the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway as well as locals looking for a night out.
“You can preserve existing and historical buildings and find new purposes for them,” says Sowash, an Athens attorney and managing owner of the town. “And it can contribute to our cultural heritage and understanding of what came before us.”
This relic of southeast Ohio’s coal-mining heritage is the former hub of the Hocking Valley Coal Co.’s Eclipse Mine No. 4. It operated from 1901 until 1948, closing for several years during the Depression. The reason for the name is lost to history, along with many details about the site, Sowash says.
What haven’t been lost, though, are the two-story company store, now a restaurant and craft beer hall; one of the mine office buildings, which is home to the nonprofit Rural Action; one shotgun-style home; and 12 four-room company houses, where miners and their families once lived. Four of the homes now house small businesses, while the others are private residences. The restoration efforts have been extensive, and significant upgrades were made to the company store, which served as a pay station and general store for the miners and their families. In 2017, the store opened as a beer hall, drawing locals, travelers and those biking the 21-mile path between Athens and Nelsonville.
Sowash notes there is some irony in new uses for buildings that sit on top of an old coal mine. One of the homes is powered by solar panels. Another houses a nonprofit that works on climate change.
“To us it seems to demonstrate what’s possible,” he says. “And you don’t have to tear down the old to make way for the new.”
11309 Jackson Dr., The Plains 45780, 740/677-4904, eclipsecompanystore.com