The former Bethlehem Steel North Office Building is slated for demolition this week. Designed by noted New York City architect Lansing C. Holden, this magnificent Beaux Arts building was originally designed for the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1902. Bethlehem Steel bought the headquarters building and steel works in 1922. Steel production ended in 1982 and coke production in 2002. This building is located just across the City line on the south side of the Union Ship Canal. This image depicts the Bethlehem Steel North Office Building - c. 1903.
The emergency demolition order was signed by the City of Lackawanna three weeks ago and the emergency demolition of the historic Bethlehem Steel headquarters building will begin later this week, see this notice. Asbestos remediation has already begun and the diesel powered wreckers are tucked behind the former headquarters building, poised for action. Demolition begins on Friday. Here's a current rear view - Bethlehem Steel North Office Building.
The building has suffered 30 years of neglect. The decorative copper detail is loose and missing and the slate roof failed years ago. The modern addition's windows were blown out and most of the interior architectural detail has disappeared. Here's what the first floor hallway looks like.
Most of the iconic steel making structures that were built on this site are now gone. The hand riveted steel smoke stacks and blast furnaces that evoked our industrial supremacy have been cut to pieces. On the other side of the Bethlehem Steel ship canal the coke ovens are crumbling. What's left of this site, big steel and an industry that shaped this City and some of the most important structures of the 20th century - Empire State Building, George Washington Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge? Mostly scrap. People who worked at Bethlehem remain as plaintiffs in various work place related injury claims and the Steel Museum now displays artifacts and objects, providing a glimpse into the lives and work of laborers, that were painstakingly salvaged from dumpsters when the steel plant wound to a close in the 80's. In other places around the world the era of big steel and what it means is still celebrated. Emscher Landschaft Park in Germany's Ruhr Valley provides one example. The pairing of a casino and the preservation of five blast furnaces in Bethlehem, PA provides what is perhaps the country's current best practice in preserving the legacy of big steel's industrial heritage. This image, from the top window, looks South.
The City of Lackawanna, NY has no preservation ordinance or active preservation organization. Decisions to help preserve these industrial landmarks have not entered the preservation or public dialog in Buffalo. Aside from decades of missed opportunities to do something with industrial preservation at this site, what remains? Patricia Bazelon captured the last days of our Bethlehem Steel, dozens of photographers have followed. Kendell Anderson's work stands out. Additional Bethlehem Steel North Office building interior pics are available here and as a slide show.
Update: A new FaceBook group has formed: Bethlehem Steel North Office - Photography and Preservation. Dozens of photographers have been inside this Beaux-Arts style gem and are posting their pictures. The photographic record contradicts the official City of Lackawanna line: "It's too far gone." Check out the growing collection of images and commentary that show a structure that's stable. There is no roof or floor collapse. The building is not "imploding".