Bethlehem Steel (Lackawanna Plant)
Located in Lackawanna, NY
Photo © 2006 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Bethlehem Steel (Lackawanna Plant) History
In 1902, the Lackawanna Steel Company which was originally founded in Scranton P.A., moved operations to Lackawanna N.Y. - just south of the city of Buffalo. A large steel mill was constructed on the shore of Lake Erie and workers from Scranton were moved to continue their jobs. The plant became the leading manufacturer of sheet piling and steel rails.
In 1922, the plant was bought by Bethlehem Steel (their main plant being in Bethlehem P.A.) for $60 million, and dumped $40 million into repairing the aging facility to expand production. Buffalo had a significant automobile industry, and linked to the booming city of Detroit through the Great Lakes, their interest in the plant was well-founded. By World War II, the Bethlehem Lackawanna Plant was the largest steel making operation in the world, with 20,000 workers producing steel plate for ships, tanks, and other military structures. The height of production was in 1973, with 40 million tons of raw and finished steel coming from the Bethlehem Steel Company.
The demand for steel started to lessen in the 1970s, and the plant began making cutbacks in production and workforce in 1977. Although record sales of $7.3 billion were reached in 1981, the company reported a $1.5 billion loss the next year. Due to this dwindling interest in steel, the rise of foreign competition, and severe restructuring of the industry, the Lackawanna plant ceased most of its operations in 1983.
Efforts to reclaim the grounds of the former plant have been tried but met with much resistance, due to the contaminants left behind in the soil, however wind turbines were successfully erected along the lakefront in 2007. The company's old 1901 administration building (known as the North Office), a fine specimen of Beaux Arts architecture, has been left neglected for some time, and a controversial demolition has begun in 2012.
A small museum dedicated to the plant can be found at the Lackawanna Public Library (560 Ridge Road Lackawanna, NY 14218).