Bethlehem Steel Mill
In the mid 1960s, the Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna (Buffalo) was the 4th largest steel mill in the world. The sprawling 1,300 acre site was home to over 100 buildings and employed 20,000 workers. It was producing record amounts of steel at a time of great profitability. This period was short-lived.
During the late 1970s, production was reduced and over 10,000 employees were laid off. Steelmaking operations were stopped abruptly in 1983 after a record loss of $1.5 billion. Coke oven operations continued but by 2001, they too were halted. Plans for the Tonawanda Coke Corporation to acquire and continue the coke operations were never finalized, leaving the entire site unused.
Large industrial sites like this (especially abandoned ones) have a sort of ‘scorched-earth’ quality to them. The context was turn-of-the-century buildings — many in significant disrepair — combined with a barren landscape populated by industrial equipment. Scenes like this are obvious inspiration for people envisioning a post-apocalyptic world.
The Lackawanna site in particular is the source of controversy regarding a contract with the United States federal government. Between 1949 and 1952, the rolling mills were used to produce uranium fuel rods. However, workers handling the materials were not aware of the dangers nor were they given protective equipment. Many workers developed cancer. Difficulty in acquiring compensation for this is a current issue, covered in a recent article by the New York Times and legislation by Senator Chuck Schumer in the Ed Walker Memorial Act.
Most recently (2007), a group of 8 wind turbines were built on the site as part of the Steel Winds project.
The 'B-Roll' / Coke Ovens
Photos in the “B-Roll” group are (in my opinion) lower-quality images, included for completeness or because they were posted when this site was in its infancy.