When thinking about Kentucky, Hungarian immigrants are probably not the first thing to enter your mind. In the early twentieth century, a Hungarian immigrant settled in rural Kentucky and established an influential coal town that greatly benefitted the area.
Himlerville, Kentucky came into being with the
establishment of the Himler Coal Company in 1919 by Martin Himler. Mr. Himler
came from Hungary and settled in the Appalachian coalfields. He contacted other
Hungarians to participate in a dream of establishing an all-Hungarian
community. Soon afterwards, Himlerville became a colony of immigrants who were
craftsmen, industrious, and hard working. Over 200 houses and town buildings were
constructed to support the mining town.
With the opening of Himler Coal Mine, a
railroad was built and a bridge over the Tug River was constructed. Shortly
afterwards, a powerhouse was built to furnish electricity and a bank was
organized to accommodate mining interests for miners. The town also had a water
reservoir and a large town hall used for community activities. A newspaper was
published in both English and Hungarian to suit the needs of locals as well as
immigrants. With his strict code of conduct, Himler’s paternal attitude toward
his employees and the town’s establishments made Himlerville a great place for
family living (Torok, A Guide to
Historical Coal Towns, 176).
Perhaps the most striking feature of
Himlerville was the beautiful home of Martin Himler, which sat atop a hill
overlooking the town. With its imposing columnns and homely veranda, the
two-story building was magnificent in every way. Similar in construction to a
barn, the unique style of the house comes from two forms of architecture: Dutch
Colonial and Craftsman. The roof has a gambrel roof, but no flaring eaves (a
Dutch Colonial distinction). Instead, the eaves resemble a Bungalow or
Craftsman style of architecture. This type of architecture can be categorized
by overhanging eaves, double-hung windows, and a front porch beneath the
extension of the main roof. Located on Mansion Hill, Himler’s estate captured
attentions and commanded a strong presence over the town and its inhabitants.
In 1928 Himlerville Coal
Co. went bankrupt and, later in the same year, the town suffered from a drastic
flash flood. After these events, Martin Himler left the country while most of
the miners and their families left during the Depression and never returned.
The name of the town was later changed to Beauty, but remnants of the Hungarian
community still remain: several miners’ houses line the main street, the old
Martin-Himler State Bank stands next to the creek, and the old Hungarian
cemetery for miners rests on a hill across from the town. Today the Himler
Mansion is in desperate need of refurbishing. Currently the Martin County
Historical Society is in the planning stages of renovating the once-majestic
Himler household and Kentucky Educational Television is planning a documentary
about the once booming coal town.