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Spotlight: New No. 9 president talks about connection to Molly Maguires

Lansford’s No. 9 Mine & Museum lays claim to having the oldest tourable coal mine in the United States, at 163 years old.

But since the mine tour itself only opened to the public in 2002, and the museum a decade before, it still may not be as widely known as the more established tours in Ashland and Scranton.

Zack Petroski, the new president of the No. 9 mine, is hoping to change that by reaching a wider audience, including visitors to Jim Thorpe. The mine officially opened for the season at the beginning of April. In May, it will expand operations to five days a week.

“Our image hasn’t been out there for 30 years like Lackawanna, or 50 years like Pioneer. I want to grow the tour through outreach, better advertising, doing different events here at No. 9,” Petroski said.

When the No. 9 stopped operating as an active mine in the ’70s, Petroski wasn’t even born. But he is passionate about mining and the museum. He started out working as a tour guide at No. 9. Over the years, he’s also been a guide at Lackawanna, worked as a licensed miner who’s worked in underground and surface mining operations.

Two years ago he returned to No. 9. And over the winter he was promoted to the mine’s president.

“We had a lot of fun when I worked down here, I learned a lot, and I wanted to come back to it. When the opportunity presented itself, I did,” Petroski said.

Since taking over he’s tried to expand the marketing for the museum, boosting its web presence and updating the brochures which are placed at hotels and restaurants around the region.

Petroski has already secured grants to upgrade some of the equipment inside the mine and museum.

He’s also reached out to Lansford Alive, which promotes businesses in the borough, as well as the Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency, hoping to partner to provide more for tourists who visit Jim Thorpe.

Petroski wants to build the connection between Lansford, the mine, and the most infamous men in the county’s history, the Molly Maguires.

Thousands of people visit Jim Thorpe each year to see the jail, which was one of the sites of the largest mass execution in Jim Thorpe history. The famous handprint of Alex Campbell before his death on the jail’s wall is a tourist destination.

But those visitors may not know that Campbell’s tavern was located a few miles away in Lansford. And the Mollies’ history in the area doesn’t end there.

In 1875, mine boss John Jones was murdered in Lansford near the entrance to the Hauto Tunnel. Many believe the Mollies were responsible.

“Jim Thorpe, that’s where they were hanged, not where the action took place. They were very active, from New Philadelphia all the way up through here,” Petroski said.

The Mollies provide a compelling human element to the story of the anthracite region. Mines like No. 9 provided the fuel for the industrial revolution in the United States. They powered steel mills, trains, municipal steam systems and early power plants.

And inside the mine and museum, Petroski hopes to show people some of what that history looked like.

No. 9 is the only mine tour in the area which is home to a real mine shaft, where coal and miners entered the mine riding in cages through a vertical shaft. The others are drift or slope mines, which have a more gentle slope.

“Its cages are still intact. People can actually see what that looks like in person without just looking at a photograph,” Petroski said.

No. 9 is also the only mine tour in the area where visitors ride in a loop as opposed to coming out the same way they came in.

Last year, the mine museum welcomed about 10,000 visitors. Petroski is hoping to keep growing that number to ensure that the mine stays around for many years to come.

“It’s a great part of the region’s history. This is what helped build this area,” he said.

The No. 9 mine is located at 9 Dock St., Lansford. During the month of April they operate under a limited schedule: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Starting in May and through October, they are open 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pg/No.9MineMuseum.

The No. 9 mine and museum is hosting an open house from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday.

Zack Petroski is the new president of the No. 9 Mine & Museum in Lansford. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
No. 9 opened as a museum in the early ’90s. They added the mine tour in 2002. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
A miner statue which used to stand in the Jim Thorpe visitors’ center has found a new home in the No. 9 Mine & Museum. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
The No. 9 Mine & Museum is located at 9 Dock St. in Lansford.
The mine museum features relics from the history of anthracite coal mining including some deactivated equipment once used to blast away rock to reach coal.
A photo of famed labor leader John L. Lewis from a visit to Coaldale hangs in the museum.
Visitors to the museum can learn about the geography and geology of the coal region.