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HOUSES FOR MINING TOWNS.
By JOSEPH H. WHITE.
In its investigations looking to the improvement of health conditions and the increase of efficiency in the mining industry, the Bureau of Mines, in cooperation with the Bureau of Public Health, is studying sanitary conditions in and about mines with the intent of pointing out how those conditions that are a menace to the health of the miner may be most efficiently removed or remedied. An outline of sanitary betterment work at mining villages in the Birmingham district of Alabama has already been published by the bureau, and in this bulletin are presented suggestions on the planning of
lining towns and the construction of miners' houses. The bulletin does not pretend to be a treatise on the so-called “housing problem," and mentions sociologic issues only incidentally.
It is assumed that the influence of proper shelter on health is understood and that not a lack of appreciation so much as a lack of knowledge of the best remedies is responsible for many of the undesirable conditions that exist at mining towns. The purpose of this bulletin is to supply facts on the building of well-lighted, wellventilated, warm, attractive, and economical houses for miners, these houses being assumed to be units of an industrial village or town the building and management of which are under the control of a corporation, so that special conditions hold which do not apply to houses built and owned by individual miners.
From this it is not to be inferred that the company-controlled town is the best system or the only one in vogue. The discussion of this side of the subject in all its phases is too involved to be included in this paper. One element in favor of the company-controlled town is its possible immediate responsiveness. Hence this assumption. Also the assumption is made that a new isolated town is being built, and hence the selection of the site, the arrangement of the streets, and the situation of the houses are discussed before the house itself is treated, for one of the most important factors in obtaining an
•Woodbridge, D, E., Sanitation at mining villages in the Birmingham district, Ala.
1913. 27 pp.
economical sanitary house is a well-selected town site. Many of the suggestions, however, may be applied in improving conditions in existing towns, in building new houses in old towns, or in repairing old houses. Emphasis must be laid on the fact that as a rule a mining village has a shorter life than a manufacturing town.
Economy is emphasized frequently because the discussion is predicated upon the assumption that the miner himself is to pay for all that he gets. House rent will doubtless be expected to bring in a reasonable return on all money invested in streets, sidewalks, water supply, sewer system, and houses; in other words, the town is to be run on a business and not on a paternal or charitable basis. “Fair and reasonable" precludes, of course, the idea of excessive returns. Some companies do not consider it good policy to realize as high a rate of interest as an independent realty company would be warranted in realizing. Under some circumstances part of the town improvements might be charged as “expense of the industry," that is, to the consumer.
The isolation of a mining town introduces a unique responsibility. As the miners are practically obliged to rent the company houses, the officials of the company ought to scrutinize all expenditures involved so that house rent may be reduced to a minimum. In a way the town builders are placed in the position of trustees. They determine, within certain limits, what proportion of a man's wages shall be spent on house rent. This consideration should restrain fanciful and unnecessarily expensive building; the other extreme should likewise be avoided. True economy should be distinguished from cheapness. Ugly, insanitary, uncomfortable shacks should not be built even if, because of their cheapness, there is a demand for them from tenants. The obligation of the industry to society as a whole as well us to the tenant ought to forbid this. A cheerful, strong, healthy, virile race will not rise out of the filth and squalor of cheap hovels. An insanitary environment often does its damage slowly and silently; vitiated air does not, like mine gas, announce its deadly work by an explosion. As Talbot e says:
Health depends in part on freedom from infection. The probability of obtaining that freedom will be greatly increased by maintaining the body at a high state of vigor, or “vitality,” as it is popularly called. This implies the promotion of all agencies which have to do with the physical well-being as well as with the control of sources of infection.
Many men realize that in building houses for their workmen they are invested with a peculiar responsibility that must be wielded wisely, and in large developments they call into consultation the landscape architect, the sanitary engineer, and the building architect, as well as the mining engineer.
Talbot, Marion, House sanitation, 1913, p. 8.
TOWN SITE AND ARRANGEMENT OF TOWN.
IMPORTANCE OF TOWN SITE. The general practice in the past has been to build the miners houses near the mines, and in selecting a site for a mining plant the desirability of the locality for town building received slight consideration. So long as crude, ugly, insanitary mining “patches” or “ camps” (see Pl. I, A) prevailed this course of procedure went unchallenged, but the rise of the modern mining town necessitated changes, and to-day the policy is to consider the town site in connection with and as an important factor in the situation of the mine plant. Moreover, if the mine plant must be built in a place that is undesirable for a town site it is no longer considered essential to build the town close to the plant.
ADVANTAGES OF ESTABLISHING TOWN NEAR PLANT.
Numerous elements affect the desirability of a town site, and local conditions will modify the choice in each case; nevertheless, there are certain general considerations that apply in making the selection. In the first place, some of the advantages gained by building the town adjoining the plant will be considered. Perhaps the most important of these advantages is that the miners may live near their work, wherefore they do not have to get up so early in the morning and in returning home at night do not have to walk so far in their damp working clothes, perhaps in the cold or wet. It should be kept in mind that a miner may have to walk a considerable distance, sometimes over a mile, before reaching the surface.
At mines where the company owns the store and where wages are advanced before pay day it is convenient for the women and children to have the house, the time office, and the store close together.
There is an advantage in having the houses near in time of breakdown or disaster, and men holding responsible positions such as those of mine foreman, fire boss, or watchman, should be within call at all times.
Building the town and the plant at one place simplifies the shipment and hauling of building material and reduces the cost of supervision. The proximity of the houses to the power plant is to be considered in connection with heating, lighting, and fire protection. In some cases it may be of advantage to have all surface rights contiguous in order to avoid litigation about roads, power-transmission lines, or water pipes.
These are important considerations, but the tendency has been to overestimate their significance; besides, new mining methods make many of them less important now than formerly. For instance, shifts are shorter than they were; underground transportation of
men to their working places is more developed; wash and change houses are being erected so that the men may leave their damp working clothes at the mine; more frequent pay days are coming into vogue, and company stores are not as common as they were.
POSSIBLE ADVANTAGES OF BUILDING TOWN SOME DISTANCE FROM PLANT.
If latitude is allowed in the search for a town site, a larger plat of gently sloping land may be found which will offer many advantages. The town may be laid out contiguously rather than in separated clusters of houses as is frequently done. The cost of streets and surface drainage systems may be lessened by the ground being less rough, and unsightly hillside houses with expensive foundations may be avoided. Single houses may be erected with large yards, insuring sunshine, good air, and fire protection. Fertile soil may be found, making possible kitchen gardens with their multifold benefits. A large plat of land may be available for truck gardens, chicken farms, or pasturage, all of which will help to reduce the cost of living and offset the difficulties incident to the irregularity of mining
Latitude in the choice of a site may allow the utilization of a lake, a river, or a spring, which may simplify the drinking-watersupply problem (see Pl. I, B), or may prove an asset as a source of healthful recreation. Athletic fields, picnic grounds, and wooded areas may be possible.
By building the town at a distance from the mines many of the dangers, nuisances, and necessarily unsightly features incident to mining may be avoided. The dangers and delays due to railroad crossings will be minimized; and in the case of a coal-mining town the noise, smoke, and dust from the tipple, breaker, coke ovens, washery, and boiler plants will be avoided, and “slate" dumps and culm heaps will not be before one's eyes year in and year out.
The maximum permissible distance between town site and mine will depend largely on the proximity to a railroad or an interurban electric system. If the men have to walk to their work the character of the roads and short-cut foot paths is important. A little money invested in footbridges, steps, and clearing away obstructions may greatly improve conditions. The long distances many men are willing to walk to work, in order to obtain the advantage of owning and living in their own homes, proves that nearness to work may be offset by other factors.
In the above discussion the opening of a single mine whose operation required 200 or 300 houses was under consideration. Another case arises when the mineral development requires or ultimately will require a large number of openings a mile or so apart, as in drift mines. Suppose 50 to 100 homes are needed for each