Bethlehem Steel Corporation was America’s second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder. It was one of the most powerful symbols of American industrial manufacturing leadership.
Maybe that’s why we were thrilled when our good friend Sean Christopher from Sean McGovern Photography sent us this photo collection that he took recently.
The company’s roots go back to 1857 when the Saucona Iron Company was first organized by Augustus Wolle. The Panic of 1857, a national financial crisis, halted further organization of the company and construction of the works. Eventually, the organization was completed, the site moved elsewhere in South Bethlehem, and the company’s name was changed to the Bethlehem Rolling Mill and Iron Company. For more fascinating urbex photography check Sean’s brand new page here Sean McGovern Photography/Facebook
During World War I and World War II, Bethlehem Steel was a major supplier of armor plate and ordnance to the U.S. armed forces, including armor plate and large-caliber guns for the Navy.
Their demise is often cited as one of the most prominent examples of the U.S. economy’s shift away from industrial manufacturing, its failure to compete with cheap foreign labor, and management’s penchant for short-term profits.
After a decline in the American steel industry and other problems leading to the company’s bankruptcy in 2001, the company was dissolved and the remaining assets sold to International Steel Group in 2003. In 2005, ISG merged with Mittal Steel, ending American ownership of the assets of Bethlehem Steel.
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 for the reuse of the massive property. The consensus was to rename the 163-acre siteBethlehem 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.