Tag Archives: Steel

Cleveland’s Industrial Valley by Night

I nearly killed myself to get these photos (wiped out on my bike). But it was worth it because I think they turned out pretty cool (even if I did shoot them on my iPhone).

I have lived in Cleveland for two and a half years and I’ve never been through the industrial valley at night until this weekend. It was surprisingly busy.

This is some kind of glass recycling facility. It appeared to be running at full kilt at approximately 1 a.m. when we rode through.

This site is a favorite of photographers, especially during the day, I am told, because of the huge piles of broken glass and the interesting ways light reflects off them

We passed some weird (I don’t know) fueling stations, that were nonetheless eerie and cool-looking.

Also, the always enchanting chemical plant, right by Clark Fields by Tremont. Much better to look at at night. Apologies, by the way, I didn’t get off my bike for this one.

The highlight of the whole adventure was really the steel mill though. This mill — someone correct me if I’m wrong — is the last mill standing in Cleveland and the Cleveland region more generally, save Akron and Youngstown.

They were working through the night and the loudspeaker enhanced voice of some supervisor echoed instructions across the quiet valley.

This was the best shot I could get with my lame camera phone. The bright light on the left is the mill’s plume, visible day and night over the valley. Dennis Kucinich once called this flame “Cleveland’s Pilot Light,” according to Cleveland Magazine.

I would really recommend checking out the mill at night. It is really amazing to see up close, like something out of a German sci-fi flick from the 1930s.

Anyway, the whole thing was like porn for industrial landscape enthusiasts, like myself. Someone with a real camera and the knowledge of how to use one should follow up with this and send us the photos.

-AS

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What Can We Learn From the “Ugly” Town of Charleroi?

The Wall Street Journal highlights a city in Belgium where people take tours of sites that include abandoned steel works, slag heaps and unfinished metro stations.

The attraction? The fascination of ugly things, the tour leader tells the paper.

Many thanks to Rust Wire reader and contributor Lewis Lehe for bringing this story to our attention!

-KG

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Masculinity in the Rust Belt

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Rust Wire has previously highlighted the writing of Lorain native Nick Kowalczyk.

Check out his latest essay, on what it means to “be a man” growing up in Lorain:

“The tough times of the 1980s and 1990s unraveled an old Lorain sensibility: you were ‘a man’ if you knew how to build things and repair cars and earned money by working with your hands. Many of those men now were laid-off or tenuously employed, made vulnerable, and economically and psychologically castrated. (If a man can’t provide for his family, than what kind of man is he?) For the first time in a century, a man could no longer be tough, minimally educated, factory-employed, and middle-class. The days of collecting a high school diploma and immediately getting a hardhat and union card were ending. So the male identity shifted in the low-income local economy. Manliness became a distinction belonging to those willing to act hard, not necessarily those willing to work hard, because, after all, what local work was there to be had anyway? And hardness became a trend among the young people.”

I really enjoy how he mixes his personal history in with Lorain’s.

Nick, thanks for sharing.

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The Rust Belt of Eastern Europe

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It’s easy to forget sometimes, but the United States and Canada aren’t the only places that have suffered from factory shutdowns and a loss of manufacturing jobs.

This article details how the current recession is hurting the steel industry in Hungary. This more in-depth story from Reuters also explores the same issue.

Some of the quotes in this story are striking in that they sound like they could easily be about workers or regions here in the U.S.:

“In its heyday in the 1980s. the city of Miskolc had more than 200,000 residents, most working in industry. The population has fallen to about 170,000 and unemployment stands at between 15 and 16 percent, well above the national average of 9.8 percent. DAM, which survived privatizations in the 1990s and was rescued after previous liquidations, is being wound up again and is laying off its approximately 700 remaining employees.”

“…More than half of those losing their jobs at the steel mill are aged over 50 and finding new work for them will be difficult, even though the city receives funds from an EU program partly designed to help crisis-hit regions, she says. ‘Those who worked at DAM for 30 to 40 years would have never left this plant. First they must overcome the trauma of all this, and it’s very hard,’ Dudas says.”

I wonder how other nations have responded to the problems caused by plant closings and mass layoffs of maufacturing workers — extended unemployment benefits? worker retraining? relocation assitance? Is there anything other countries are doing that we should be trying? Has anyone studied this?

-KG

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Photo Essay: Pittsburgh’s Carrie Blast Furnace

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a city built by steel. The belching smoke and fire from the great mills was an omnipresent reminder of the area’s dominant industry. Pittsburgh’s vast steel operations played a large role in building the nation’s infrastructure; at one point, half of the country’s steel came from the three rivers. The city’s mills were at the heart of a war machine that won two world wars and made America the manufacturing envy of the world.

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However, a confluence of events in the 1950’s and 60’s exposed fatal chinks in the armor of Pittsburgh’s steel industry: overseas competition, inadequate capital investment, bad labor-management relations; and the exhaustion of local natural resources proved devastating. 

The late 1970’s marked the beginning of the end for Pittsburgh’s dominance in steel. Hundreds of thousands of steel workers would lose their jobs as the once mighty blast furnaces were silenced. The city and the region were plunged into a economic depression that challenged the area’s very future.

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Today, Pittsburgh has largely reinvented itself as a center for robotics and emerging technology. Large scale urban renewal and the expansion of retail has erased much of historic Pittsburgh. The steel industry and the struggles of labor have often been forgotten, or downplayed. Most people now would probably be more apt to recognize the “steel mark” logo as belonging to a football team, instead of US Steel, who it was originally designed for.

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These photos I’ve taken are from the remains of U.S. Steel’s, Homestead Works. The Carrie Blast Furnace, abandoned in 1978, was once part of this sprawling industrial complex. Now, nature and the elements have begun to reclaim her. Though her mighty furnace is now quiet, this rusted hulk is a powerful reminder of the painful death of the region’s steel industry.

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This post was authored and photographed by Sean Posey, a documentarian and a graduate student in history at Youngstown State University.

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The G-20 in Pittsburgh

  Along with the Penguins being in the Stanley Cup finals, the city of Pittsburgh got some exciting news last week: it will host the G-20 summit this fall.

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  Part of the reason the city was chosen is to highlight its recovery from the loss of the steel industry during the 1980s.

  I’m not sure everyone in Pittsburgh would agree that the city (and the surrounding Mon Valley) would really agree that the area has “recovered” – ever been to Braddock? But compared to the economic problems the rest of the world is experiencing, a lot of folks think Pittsburgh is looking pretty good these days.

  And I’m happy to see people recognizing that Pittsburgh is a pretty darn cool city.

  By the way, I’m glad everyone set this guy straight.

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From Mills…To Malls?

This article in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses the redevelopment of the Carrie Furnace site – “an expanse of blast furnaces that once produced as much as 1,200 tons of iron per day for the former Homestead Works of U.S. Steel.”

The 168-acre parcel is now owned by the county and is close to being ready for development, the article states, in the final stages of environmental cleanup.

What will replace the furnaces, which operated for 102 years?

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