Originally published by Buffalo Rising, “Bethlehem Steel, Going Going Gone?” by David Steele.
Based on recent activity witnessed around the old Bethlehem Steel North building on Route 5 in Lackawanna it looks as if the structure is likely to be demolished within the next few days. New fencing has gone up and heavy equipment has been moved in. This is a major piece of Western New York history – American history actually. It is going to be thoughtlessly destroyed. Much of Buffalo and WNY was built from activity conducted within this building. The United States won the war in Europe and Japan in no small part due to what was done inside this building. It is important historically and it is important for its architectural craft and beauty but it will be destroyed because of small thinking.
“Completed in 1901, this Beaux-Arts masterpiece would become the administration building for Bethlehem Steel’s mill in Lackawanna, NY. During the 1940’s this was the largest steel mill in the United States, but little is left of its enormous campus now. Following the mill’s closure in 1982, much of the site was razed and this administration building wound up in the ownership of Gateway Trade Center.
By all accounts, GTC cares very little for the history of the area and for efforts to preserve the building. They have left it open to the elements for nearly two decades and rejected proposals from interested developers and preservation groups that have tried to save the building. It seems clear that their intention all along has been to let the building fall apart until it is no longer salvageable and then tear it down. While there are areas of the roof and interior that have deteriorated badly the facade is salvageable and I have seen many projects where buildings in this condition are restored, much to the benefit of the community and culture around it.
GTC appears to have got its wish, however, as demolition may begin as early as today on this site despite a fierce battle by preservationists in the area who would like to keep even a small part of the mill’s history alive for future generations. If you would like to aid their efforts please visit their website http://imsteelstanding.org/ – they desperately need support not through finances but in merely making phone calls on its behalf to demand that the demolition permits are revoked and this iconic site is kept. “