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Buffalo in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna

The Industrial Heritage Trail

 

—Part 4: The Decline of Bethlehem Steel —

 
Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
1. Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna Marker
Inscription. After World War II, America's insatiable appetite for steel kept mills across the country bustling and highly profitable. The modernized Lackawanna plant remained at near-wartime production levels and continued to employ nearly 20,000 workers for the next several decades. Further modernized in the 1960s with the addition of basic oxygen furnaces, the plant continued its remarkable output into the 1970s, helping its parent company set production records in 1973 of 23.7 million tons of raw steel and 16.3 million tons of finished steel, totals which trumped those achieved during World War II.

By the late 1970s, foreign competition made it financially impossible to continue to manufacture most of the products produced at Lackawanna. In addition, increased state property taxes and new environmental regulations further curtailed the Lackawanna facility's profitability. By late 1977, the workforce in the plant had been reduced to 8,500. Bethlehem Steel allowed the Lackawanna Steel plant to become obsolete. The company built a new facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana, and stopped investing in new steel production methods at Lackawanna.

Looking north up the Ship Canal. The coke ovens are on the left (circa 1984). Image Source: Historic American Engineering Record, Library of Congress.

A nationwide recession in 1981 resulted
Northward image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
2. Northward
Marker is on the closest tower in this view. Fuhrmann Boulevard is segmented here by the Union Ship Canal.
in less demand for durable goods such as cars and appliances, and high interest rates put capital building projects on hold. Bethlehem Steel, like many American steel companies, was encountering significant financial problems. Although the company made several public attempts to reassess the plant's viability and keep the plant open, closure was a foregone conclusion. On December 27, 1982, Bethlehem Steel announced it would permanently shut down steelmaking at the facility. The company laid off workers in waves before the final closure, and transferred many others. In October, 1983, the last steel was processed, and more than 3,900 workers lost their jobs.

The closure of the plant after 80 years in operation spelled disaster for the surrounding communities. Unemployment skyrocketed as steel workers and those who worked in secondary trades were laid off, and property taxes for the citizens of Lackawanna rose drastically. The exodus of working class jobs and the resulting economic depression rippled throughout Western New York for years.

The Steel Plant Museum of WNY
 
Erected by The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc.
 
Location. 42° 50.042′ N, 78° 51.28′ W. Marker is in Buffalo, New York, in Erie County. Marker is on Fuhrmann Boulevard ¼ mile south of Ohio Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Buffalo NY 14203, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (here, next to this marker); The Lehigh Portland Cement Company (here, next to this marker); The Union Ship Canal (here, next to this marker); Improvements in Ship Design (a few steps from this marker); Early Lake Erie Water Craft (a few steps from this marker); The Great Lakes (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Buffalo.
 
Also see . . .  The Steel Plant Museum of Western New York. (Submitted on July 25, 2015, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
 
Categories. Industry & Commerce
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 25, 2015, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 164 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 25, 2015, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.
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