What can I even say about Bethlehem Steel? This company literally built America. Founded in 1857, the Bethlehem Steel corporation developed the "Bethlehem Beam" which was a version of the traditional I-beam but with a wider flange that increased it's strength. Basically, the "I" beam became an "H" beam. This small development had massive impacts on the construction world and ushered in the era of the skyscraper. In addition to the development of the Bethlehem Beam, the company made innovations in the production of steel which allowed them to undercut their competition and achieve a position of dominance in the American steel market.
In addition to their dominance in the commercial market and the impact that it had on America's rise to industrial supremacy, Bethlehem Steel also played a critical role in America's military history. The company owned shipyards which produced battleships for the US Navy, and the Bethlehem, PA plant produced guns and armor plating for battleships as well. The company's role in winning WWII cannot be overstated.
The Golden Gate Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Chrysler Building, Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, The Cadillac Building...Hoover Dam...all of these structures were built with Bethlehem Steel. Since visiting this place I have been on the lookout for the Bethlehem marque and have found it on everything from rails in New York to an HVAC support beam at Fisher Body 21 in Detroit. Despite closing its doors for good in 2003, the legacy of Bethlehem Steel lives on in the skeletons of countless American structures.
Since the first time I set foot on the property of the former steel mill I have been fascinated with it. As I often tell other explorers who have never visited this place, you are not exploring a building when you come here. You are, in fact, exploring a gigantic machine. It almost feels like a living thing...dormant but ready to fire up at any time when you are up on the catwalks high above the turbine room. The process of making steel and how all the different parts of this incredible structure worked together are fascinating to me.