We built the Golden Gate

How long has it been since this was updated?! Even though time has passed, I still haven’t given up on the abandoned world. I just had to put things aside due to a recent career move; damn the corporate world. So, thanks to the obviously famous RenegadeOfFunk and Injektilo whom met up, as usual, 9 hours from my home town.

Today’s adventure would be in the same location that was, at one point, the worlds 2ed largest producer of steel and the main manufacturer of steel for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge… The Bethlehem Steel Corperation.

Beth Steel was a picture of American industry. The company was started and only grew in the early 1880s. During the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, a structure that was designed to make the world marvel received its giant axle from Bethlehem Steel. The world’s first Ferris Wheel needed enough steel to assemble a 140-ft tower to support an all-steel wheel, altogether making a 264-ft structure. The iron made in Bethlehem Steel’s blast furnaces was responsible for the world’s largest single piece of cast iron that had ever been made up to that time.

In 1991, Bethlehem Steel discontinued coal mining (under the name BethEnergy). At the end of 1995, it closed steel-making at the main Bethlehem plant. After roughly 140 years of metal production at its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania plant, Bethlehem Steel ceased operations in Bethlehem.

Though the plant closed over 20 years ago, this facility was on the very top of my bucket list. Being a former native of Pennsylvania I had more than 20 years to explore the grounds… Sadly I had to move almost 9 hours south to see it.
A sudden call from RenegadeofFunk & Injektilo alerted me to their  presence in New York. A far cry from their Boston residence, I knew I had to take this opportunity to see my fellows in crime. This multi-day event was a well needed break from the laboratory and research world. Arriving in the wee hours of the night I was welcomed with the usual lonely couch of a friend-of-a-friend that we were all housing with and the usual 5AM wake-up call of the predawn explore.

Aside from this location being completely surrounded by a casino, endless parking lots, and train tracks, it was an easy entry. Up and over says the solder.
Upon entry, hundreds, nay thousands of  miles of metallic piping and infrastructure awaited our arrival.  The sheer space of this place was astounding. Every place you looked was a space that could hold a basketball court or a single chamber that conceivably contain a locomotive…

Not being a lover of heights I could not make myself climb the 300ft rusted and un-supported stairs that Renegade or Ink flew up with ease. Though they have some excellent photographs of dawn cresting, I was safe 40 feet below them on the cold steel platform that had not been creased with substantial weight since the 90’s.

Though I considered this place a death trap, it was one of the most interesting and expansive places I have ever been to. The entire facility consisting of a power plant, train yard, industrial facility, and many other out buildings, it was just too much to see in one 7hr trip.

From post-documentary viewing, I found that the exact turbine picture above (Turbine-4) was considered the Bethlehem Kill Turbine. This lovely machine was first coined the name in 1974, when, due to no safety standards, it  swept an African American worker into its gigantic spinning wheel… Killing him instantly. It wasn’t until 1985 that a simple guard rail was placed to prevent this from happening again.

Looking back at this location, I can’t put its scale into perspective. Everything about here was massive. Even the spools for cable were more than triple the normal size of a normal Ford F150.

Bottom line is that America has lost it’s edge in industry. Despite the closing of its local operations, Bethlehem Steel tried to reduce the impact on the Lehigh Valley area with plans to revitalize the south side of Bethlehem. It hired consultants to develop conceptual plans on the reuse of the massive property. The consensus was to rename the 163-acre site Bethlehem Works and to use the land for cultural, recreational, educational, entertainment and retail development. The National Museum of Industrial History, in association with the Smithsonian Institution and the Bethlehem Commerce Center, consisting of 1,600 acres of prime industrial property, would be erected on the site along with a casino and large retail and entertainment complex.

In 2001, Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy. In 2003, the company’s remnants, including its six massive plants, were acquired by the International Steel Group.In 2007, the Bethlehem property was sold to Sands BethWorks, and plans to build a casino where the plant once stood were drafted. Construction began in fall 2007; the casino was completed in 2009. Ironically, the casino had difficulty finding structural steel for construction, thanks to a global steel shortage and pressure to build Pennsylvania’s tax-generating casinos. 16,000 tons of steel will be needed to build the $600 million complex

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2 Responses to “We built the Golden Gate”

  1. Matthew Sereno Says:

    Loved it dude. Great story and pictures. Wish, I had known you were home. That is an hr from my house.

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