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Land near coke ovens still being sought

Saturday, May 8, 2010


In 1900, Rosario Altomare came to Leetonia to work at the Cherry Valley Iron Works.

Coal was burned in beehive-shaped ovens to produce coke, a component needed to make American steel when used as a fuel in a blast furnace.

Four generations later, Rosario’s great-grandson, Bill Merdich, is helping to preserve and restore the ovens.

And he’s not alone.

Gary E. Phillips, the Leetonia village administrator, has sought funds from the Clean Ohio Fund to buy property near the coke ovens. In 1993, the Cherry Valley Coke Ovens site was recognized in the National Register of Historic Places. An Ohio Historical Marker was added in 1999.

Phillips said Friday that the village has passed the first round in the effort to buy more land near the ovens to protect the site and to draw more of the estimated 600 joggers, bicycle riders and walkers who already use the nearby portion of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway every week.

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