Helena Historic Preservation has successful tour of historic coke ovens

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, May 3, 2022

By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

HELENA –The Helena Historic Preservation Committee held its annual guided hike through the Billy Gould Coke Ovens on Saturday, April 23. The ovens are an integral part of Helena’s long and intricate history.

The ovens were part of Helena’s rich coal mining history. They were named after Billy Gould, who owned 1,700 acres in Helena during the Civil War where the ovens eventually were built.

Hikers met outside of the Helena Sports Complex and hiked down Ruffin Road, which leads to the 12 ovens.

“We had about 70 people in the woods, which included Boy Scout Troop 2 of Helena who helped our group with the hike,” said Linda Wurstner, who sits on the Committee.

Wurstner continued the hikes are an excellent way to educate people about Helena’s unique history.

Hikers were treated to sights such as the oven ruins, old mines, bridge supports in both the Cahaba River and Buck Creek and an abandoned cemetery. James Lowery of the Birmingham Mineral Railroad group, was in attendance and spoke about the importance of coke ovens.

City Council member Hewy Woodman spoke of the tour’s success at the April 26 City Council work session.

“It was a really successful and really interesting day,” Woodman said. “They had people from all over come out to see the ovens, not just from Helena. It was a really great turnout. I think everyone had a good time.”