Almost a Ghost Town – Coleman, Alberta

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Art Deco details on a building on main street.

Coleman, Alberta is a great place to visit on your holidays unless you’re looking for lots of activity, shops to browse through and tourist destinations.

Coleman is a small town with a population of just over 1,000 people. The town is located in the Rocky Mountains within the municipality of Crowsnest Pass in Alberta.

Coleman was once a force to be reckoned with, in terms of coal mining. A feature of the town was the mine’s 100 (later 216) coke ovens located at the edge of town, which operated from 1906 to 1952. (Wikipedia)

Coleman persevered through coal mine strikes (1911 and 1932), floods (1923 and 1942) and fires (1948) but eventually the coal mines in the area gradually closed as gas replaced coal for heating. Slowly people began to leave the town in search of a better life elsewhere. Miner’s cabins and “white hat” homes (mine supervisors wore white hats) were abandoned.

Although a number of people still live in Coleman most of their food and services are purchased in Blairmore, a town that is a mere 5 minute drive away. Businesses, once in Coleman, either closed or moved to Blairmore and, like in any urban location, what suffered the most was the town’s main street.

Today, Main Street looks like a movie set with its abandoned buildings. I love to walk down the wide street every time I visit and imagine what the town must have been like in its heyday.

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Another Main Street building in Coleman

Coleman’s coal mining heritage is evident in its  historic buildings. The old school houses a regional museum, worth visiting for the local flavour. The ruins of its coal plant and coke ovens, and several nearby abandoned mines can be visited as well.

You’d think that homes would be inexpensive here – but that is changing fast. Because of its location in the mountains, ski hills and 3 hour proximity to Calgary, homes are being bought up and renovated as summer homes. Progress, rather than economic dissolution, will change the face of Coleman in the future. I hope the town realizes the importance of these wonderful old buildings and protects them for the future.

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Commerce on Main Street

4 responses to “Almost a Ghost Town – Coleman, Alberta

    • Yes, especially when these towns usually were so vibrant in their heyday. At one time (after the Depression) there was very little work available for young men in the Canadian prairies so they went west into British Columbia in search of work in the mines. It was dirty, back breaking work – but it was work. My dad was one of these young men – way before I came along 🙂

  1. Thanks for the article Johanne. Coleman’s not a place I would usually stop to visit, but now I definitely will!

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