Ash Pits

Keith Raske was kind enough to provide me with a couple of photos of mysterious cement tubs located in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood. As best as I can tell, they were ash pits, where homeowners would dump the ashes from their coal fired furnaces. I have seen a couple of these in my own neighborhood, and they were obviously once more common. It’s hard to believe that is was only fifty to sixty years ago that people were still burning coal in their furnaces.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Every (?) home in "The City" had them until the dawn of "coal gas" in the middle 19th Century which was supplied by Laclede until the late 1940s when natural gas became widely available. Coal gas was also called "town gas," as it was usually available in the "downtown" sections of large cities.We here in the boonies of Kirkwood usually just dug holes in the back yard and buried the stuff – or just let it pile up. I lieve in the house in which I grew up and still encounter "clinkers" from the fancy stoker furnace we had.The more sophisticated townies of Downtown Kirkwood and further East had "ash cans," which were nothing more than heavy-duty metal garbage cans which the "garbage men" picked up and took to the town dump. In our case, it was at the corner of Ballas and (now) West Adams (a friend has a house now built on the dump).

  2. I forgot – when I left home in '61, I lived in what I called a carriage house (actually over a garage) in South St. Louis, off Chippewa, a bit East of Kingshighway. The homes in that neighborhood were built in the '20s through the '30s and all had ash pits in the alleys, so gas did not make it "out there" until after WW II

    1. darlene says:

      I lived on loughborough growing up, and all the buildings had ash pits. They were used to burn trash, (not garage) and don’t remember ever seeing coal ash from our furnace in the basement ever put in it. I do remember seeing embers in the bottom of it after a burn of papers and cardboard refuse….

  3. Circle Blue says:

    I grew up in another St. Louis — St. Louis, Michigan. Actually, I grew up a few miles out of town on a farm. We spread the ashes from the coal furnace on our driveway. When I left home in 68' we were still burning coal, but not long after that the switch was made to propane. I didn't think of these being ash pits when I first saw them, but now it makes sense.Thanks,Keith R.

  4. My grandmother lives in a house on Robert Ave., obviously in the city, and when she and my grandfather moved in, maybe 20 years ago or so, they did have an ash pit still. They knocked it down. But some of their neighbors still have them outside, by the alley. Also, some of the older homes, like my grandmother', has a limestone room in the basement with a large metal door. On the other side of that door is a room with the coal chute door, leading outside. My best bet is that they would throw the coal down the chute and into this stone room.

  5. Chris says:

    My house also still has its coal bunker, as I think they are sometimes called. It was converted into a workshop, which is what still use it for, but when I was cleaning up I still found little bits of coal. That's interesting to hear that your grandmother's was made out of limestone; most of the ones I've seen are wood.

  6. Dshell74 says:

    I used to own a home in Dogtown that was built in 1929. It had a coal room that had been converted to house a huge oil tank…I'm guessing that this happened when they converted to oil heat?

  7. Dshell74 says:

    I owned a home in Dogtown that was built in 1929. It had a coal room that had been converted to house a huge oil tank…presumably when oil heat became the rage?

  8. Chris says:

    That would make sense.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Born and raised in south St. well I can remember the ash pits..Also my mom scooping coal into the furnace. But most of all I can remember my girlfriend and myself would go down the allys and look in the pits to see what treasures we could find….Yes, those were good old days..I think..

  10. willaim 74 says:

    Every house add what was called an ash pit. but ash wasn’t the only thing that was dumped into them.
    All household trash and garbage as well. they rats ran rapit. We would spend evenings after dark trying to kill rats with clubs or anything we could use as a weapon.
    A lot of times the pits would be burned, which added to the already smog. Than someone would be hired to cleal them out. My mother could harley sleep for fear of the rats gitting in the baby’s crib, which they were known for doing. My grandmother woke up with on her chest, he bit her face.

  11. Michael H. says:

    We use to jump into the pits and light things on fire. One time we nearly roasted ourselves, as we had trouble getting out of the put. Come to think of it, we set alot of things on fire.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

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