I grew up in a small town near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and just returned from a personal trip to the area. Whenever I visit, I enter into a time warp that combines my memories of the past with the stark differences of the present.
Bethlehem Steel was a manufacturing dynamo during my parent's life and they, along with most everyone else, were employed by the company. The landscape of the town was built around the steel mill which sprawled along the Lehigh River. Belching smoke into the air, the row of massive stacks were the heart of the furnaces that produced most of the steel used to build the skyscrapers of New York City. The I-beam, which Bethlehem Steel innovation, allowed for modern construction. The steel used on the Golden Gate Bridge came from Bethlehem Steel and the plant built one fifth of the fleet for WWII in its shipyard. When the company went bankrupt and closed in 2001, I was already living in California so I wasn't around to see the dying gasps from the behemoth which had played such a huge part in building America.
Old Warehouse Near the Stacks
While I was in PA, I took a trip over to the site of the old Bethlehem Steel Company. Many of the structures are still standing in various states of decay but a slow restoration is taking place. It is a monumental undertaking to bring the giant buildings back to life. I was awed by the strength of the place. One thing that was missing was the noise. As a kid I remember the sound made by the massive machines and the steam escaping from the top of the stacks. The vibration and underlying noise could be heard miles away. Now all is silent and that silence tells the tale of lost jobs, broken communities and forgotten dreams.
Stacks Along the Lehigh River
A casino stands where once enormous cranes lifted raw material from the gravel pits along the Minsi Trail Bridge. One of the block long cranes provides the entrance into the casino announcing "SANDS" in the steel framework. How strange to think that the most profitable casino in the chain now stands where the United States second largest manufacturer of steel produced the best steel in the world.
When I was growing up, I hated the mill. It was old and ugly, noisy and dirty. I resented the power that the "company" had and was saddened as it gobbled up generation, after generation in its giant maw. Looking back now with some perspective, I see it was an important part of our industrial past, a part of American history. Bethlehem, nicknamed the Christmas City, has evolved beyond the steel mill by incorporating its past with the present. I am glad others had the vision to include the old with the new. It is really something to see.Topics: Learning Curve
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2 Responses to Past, Present and Future
So very interesting, Sharon!!
Looks like you had a great trip. I hope we can get together at some point, but doubt it will be this week.
In the meantime... Have a wonderful Christmas. Hugs to you both.
It was something. I was thinking of how the mill made exhaling sounds. As a little kid I always thought it was a giant monster on the banks of the river. Alive and waiting. The noise should be part of the restoration.
Have a wonderful Christmas and hope to see you soon.
Love to you and your family.
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