Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Campbell, O. - This class photo, dated 1925, shows students from Penhale school. If you look closely you can make out the Sheet & Tube Campbell works through the smoke in the background.  

 Photo courtesy of Ohio Memory Collection  

Photo courtesy of Ohio Memory Collection  

Mahoning River Archaeology

Steel Valley, O. - The Mahoning River forms in Columbiana County and merges with the Shenango river just south of New Castle, PA to form the Beaver River.

This river served as the main artery for the miles and miles of steel mills that once lined the Mahoning. The mills used huge amounts of water for various purposes which was pumped in from the river, and eventually returned. Industrial waste and super heated water poured into the river for a century. The river did not freeze, even in the frigid north east Ohio winters, for decades. When the local steel industry began to collapse in the 70s and 80s the Mahoning finally began to freeze again, but even with the mills closed the river still showed the scars from the area's industrial past. The levels of heavy metals, PCBs and other contaminants made the Mahoning one of the most polluted in the United States.

There has always been a stigma around the river, people would say that there were three eyed fish that lived in it and that you would be poisoned if you swam in it. The river is cleaner now, it's safe to eat small amounts of the fish even, but people still made those comments when I told them I was going to 'yak the riv as they say.

Pollution or no pollution, I still wanted to explore the river to see the Steel Valley's industry from a vantage point that most people never have or will. Years ago, my cousin suggested we make a raft from 55 gallon drums and scrap lumber to float down the river, so I started doing a little research. I really wanted to float from Newton Falls, all down through Warren (WCI Steel was still in business then, it would have been something to pass between the blast fce. and BOF sides of the active mill), Niles, McDonald, Girard, Youngstown, Campbell, Struthers, Lowellville and New Castle through the remains of industry. I found a few river maps online, and saw that there were dams and obstructions that seemed like they could kill us all along the river so we tabled that idea.

Earlier this year I was contacted by Chuck Miller from the Mahoning River Paddling & Restoration Group who saw the story WFMJ TV21 did on this site. He was familiar with the river, how to kayak it safely, and offered to loan me a boat and take me from Youngstown to Lowellville. I let him know that hell yes I wanted to go.

We started just south of the abandoned steel truss bridge that was West Avenue when it still crossed the river. We paddled down past the B&O station, under the Peanut bridge and then the Marshall Street bridge. There were stretches of the Mahoning near that point that looked nothing like Youngstown, it was like being out in Cook's Forest. Very quiet, very beautiful. Peaceful. It's a shame the river has never been dredged and the dams have been left behind. If that happened it could be a terrific recreation area. I was there to see the dams though, there is something to be said about all of that industry being overtaken by nature.

 

The first industrial relic we came across was just past where the William Tod Co. / Wean United stood, south of the Market Street bridge. (No traces of the Tod Co. remained.) The Covelli Centre replaced Republic Steel, but the water intake still exisits. The same intake is pictured on this postcard and appears on this map dated 1884. Built to last in Youngstown.

Compare the postcard above to the modern photo below. The trees along the riverbank have really bounced back, not just here but all along the river; it was amazong kayaking throguh that tree canopy. 

Across from where the Republic mill was I noticed what looked like a boxcar on the hill just down from the active railroad tracks. That is definitely a boxcar, or at least a mangled part of one. A CSX freight train happened to pass by as I was photographing this wreck and wondering how the hell it got there.

The next two photos are the remaining pier for what was Cedar Street when it used to cross the river, and a piece of 2" threaded rod that was growing out of the hillside just before the next Republic Steel mill we came across: the Hazelton works. 

This pipe jutting out of the man made stacked stone retaining wall was the first indication that we were back in an industrial area. A bird was hanging around inside of that pipe, it flew out and startled the hell out of me. I missed the shot.

We were entering what was a a highly industrialized stretch of river, see the image from Youngstown, Ohio: Steel Valley Artifacts below. From this point down to Lowellville we passed places that employed relatives of mine. Youngstown Sheet & Tube (John D. Grilli, Dominick Grilli, Don Meenachan, Bob Grilli, John W. Grilli [via Industrial Mill Service]), J&L Steel/Cold Metal Products (Albert Grilli) who also drew water from the river all the way from the other side of YS&T, but I couldn't find their intake. Further down would have been Sharon Steel's Lowellville works (Mario Grilli and possibly Freddie Retort). These men that spent years here were on my mind the entire time.

 

Courtesy Youngstown, Ohio: Steel Valley Artifacts

Two monolithic Republic shed buildings, visible in the photo above, peek through the heavy tree cover on the banks of the river.

The bridge piers {L} and abutment {R} below. Per Rick Rowlands of Youngstown Steel Heritage: "Since it would connect the Republic track from Brown Bonnell to the operations at the other side of the river I would say that it was a Republic Steel bridge.  Possibly the route by which hot metal got to the open hearth from the blast furnaces."

Below: A Republic Steel shed and a sand tower that I would say is 100' tall.

Below: Republic Steel Corp. intake. The river was a bit low that day so you were able to see the intake grates exposed at the bottom of this structure.

Below: A section of brick wall that I assume was pushed into the river during the demolition of the Republic Steel Hazelton works.

Below: Another Republic Steel rail bridge which is abandoned, and in the background standes the still active Norfolk Southern (formerly Pennsylvania Railroad) Youngstown line and yard office. 

The next images are from the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company's Campbell works, beginning with this image of a tree that has grown around several lengths of pipe. There were rail lines at the top of this bank that ran through the Sheet & Tube propoerty, I wonder if pipe spilled off of a train that was moving it around in the mill.

The photo below was taken from underneath of the shiny new Walton Street bridge, with a Sheet & Tube bridge in the background. The remaining bridge is very industrial in it's design, it features an expanded metal deck and large diameter pipes that ran across it. The really interesting item here is the abandoned bridge pier in the foreground. 

This pier supported the original Walton Street bridge, which was the main entrance to Youngstown Sheet & Tube. There is a very Youngstown story behind the reason that bridge had to be replaced, one that involves a shot and a beer bar that steelworkers used to frequent right up Walton St.

I will leave names out of this, but here is the story of the Walton Street bridge and the Bloom Butt Inn as it was told to me: "When they cut the ends of a slab (bloom) off to get the right length for the order , it's called a bloom butt. Three guys on midnight shift pulled a scam where one guy ran a locomotive crane, one drove truck and the third guy did the hooking and unhooking. They would sell the butts as scrap in Pittsburgh. After a while they got lazy and started taking the butts to New Castle to sell as scrap. YS&T would periodically check scrap yards to see if anything came from them. YS&T found about $180,000.00 worth of receipts from just New Castle. They fired the three guys. One eventually bought the Walton bar and named it The Bloom Butt Inn. Don't know about one of the guys, but the locomotive driver got his job back after about a year. One day on day shift he was running late at the end of his shift and was rushing back to the shop in the loco crane and forgot to put the boom down. He hit the bridge that went to Walton street knocking it out of whack. The bridge was never able to be used after that. Men going into the mill from Walton street had to go down steps to ground level and take a round about way to get into the plant." 

Below is a photo of the aformentioned bridge in the 80's when they were tearing down the Campbell works. She looks a little bit out of plumb.

Courtesy Sean Posey

 

I could not find any information on this Bloom Butt Inn online, but with today being the 40th anniversary of Black Monday (learn more about that here, and the impact it had on my family here and here  ) there has been a lot of talk about Youngstown's steel industry in the media. I was watching a segment on the shutdowns on WKBN and sure as shit they cut from a shot of the mill to interviews of people at "a mill bar" they called it. The Bloom Butt Inn.

Courtesy WFMJ

I don't think stealing all that scrap was an ethical decision, but skimming off the top is as Youngstown as pierogies and homemade cavatels. Anyhow, enough with story time. The next image was the main water intake for Youngstown Sheet & Tube, located just southeast of where the blast furnaces once stood.

The remains of a massive dam that sat between the coke plant and blast furnaces. Per Rick Rowlands: "Dam to create cooling water pool for Campbell Works.  A tramway that hauled coke in self propelled transfer cars ran over a trestle built on top of this dam."

Intake and pump house for the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Struthers works. The water pulled from this location was needed for the 9" and 12" bar mills (where my grandpa was a craneman) as well as the conduit plant and powerhouse.

Below are photos of the former Sharon Steel Corp.'s pump houses that served their Lowellville works. "Sharon Steel Lowellville Works pump house.  Actually there are two pump houses.  This one is the oldest of the two.  It was replaced by the larger one next to it. This one might date back to the Ohio Iron & Steel Co. days"

The newer of the two (but still long forgotten) Sharon Steel pumphouse.

A nine mile trip down the Mahoning River revealed another side of our industrial heritage that needed to be documented, and I feel lucky to have been able to do that. These buildings will likely stand for years and years, there is more concrete than steel scrap, plus you would never know they were down there. Out of sight out of mind. I like to think I changed that.

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all photos copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Corp.

Campbell, O. - Today is the eve of the 40th anniversary of Black Monday, the day that Youngstown Sheet & Tube announced they would put 5,000 men (including 5 of my relatives, whether laid off immediatley or allowed to retire) out of work by closing the massive Campbell works. 

Frank Castro, who has contributed many memories to this site, sat down with the Youngstown Vindicator to share his story of that infamous day. He has an interesting perspective on the closure, including how he was still installing new machinery right up until the end and lost a finger in the mill just before he lost his livelihood. The video of his interview is below.

Grandpa

Youngstown, O. - John D. Grilli was so much more than a Sheet & Tube retiree. He was my grandpa. He was a loving husband to my grandma. He was the person that raised my dad right. He was the guy that tanned my hide, so to speak, when I stepped out of line. He was a kind man of few words. He worked 35 years down the mill after he saw unspeakable things in the Philippines during the war. He grew grapes and made wine on North Bon Air behind the house he built from that steel mill money. He had enough time in to retire after Black Monday and bought a truck, and put my dad to work hauling steel with his pension. He was a fucking man's man. He is the man I strive to be. 

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P&LE RR Gateway Yard

Struthers, O. - When it opened in 1957 the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Gateway Yard was considered a major milestone in the timeline of the P&LE. The yard was over 5 miles long, stretching from from Center St. to Lowellville, and handling freight for many of the area's heavy industrial concerns. They didn't call this railroad The Little Giant for nothing, the P&LE moved more tonnage than average for such a short railroad. It only operated between Youngstown and Pittsburgh, but think how many steel mills they serviced.

Here are some photos I took down there, mostly from 03/04, so excuse the low resolution/poor quality. I feel fortunate to have taken photos of the footbridge into the yard before it was demolished, and of the rooftop sign before some white rappers from Poland turned it into a billboard for suburban struggle music.

All images copyright Paul Grilli 2017

The P&LE's history in the Youngstown area goes back much further than 1957, they actually owned and operated a dining hall and a YMCA on Wilson Avenue, directly across from the Campbell water plant. Check out this Sanborn map from 1928. 

The P&LE was completely absorbed into CSX in 1993. The photos below were taken 10 years later when the footbridge from Wilson Avenue into the yard still stood. I was always fascinated by this bridge. Think about how many hardworking people walked to work, or took a bus from Youngstown/Campbell/Struthers/Lowelville, and crossed this bridge every day. 

Footbridge on left. Hump center. Car barn and now demolished building that housed locker rooms/med station center right.

I'm assuming the workers that crossed that bridge walked directly through this man tunnel that went under the hump. There wasn't much light at the end of it when I was down there. 

The photo below is one of my favorites I took down there, a long forgotten employee directory. I love seeing the writing that was left on the walls by guys that were laid off years ago. Who are these guys, where are they now? Why did Blackie suck? Were Sam, Frank, Natale and Al the kind of guys you would want to drink a beer with after work on Friday, at the same bar on Wilson Avenue you cashed your check at?

Below - Clockwise from top: Sink - Medical Station - Union sticker - Missing control panel in hump yard tower - locker detail - car barn grease bay

Jacket found in basement of main hump yard tower.

Below - Clockwise from top: Main hump yard tower and the hump - PSA - Demolished - RR propaganda

Car barn interior

Below - Clockwise from top: Hump yard tower - Open manhole - Remnants of last crew - Rain lockers - Another yard tower - Locker room

This yard tower was located down in Lowellville at the far end of the yard. It was re-purposed by kids that rode the rails. I wish I had more photos, but you can see some hobo graffiti above the window in the second image. There was a notebook where different freight train riders signed in with where they were from and where they were going. Remarks about the weather and which trains you had to wait on for hours to pull out. There was a track map scrawled on the wall, with arrows pointing to Cleveland, Pittsburgh etc. It was fascinating. 

The Fight Against Black Monday

Campbell, O. - A heartbreaking ABC news report filmed shortly after the September 1977 announcement that they were closing the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Campbell works. This shutdown directly affected 5 of my family members. My uncle was telling me there were grown men crying in the mill after they found out, said it was one of the saddest things he ever saw. 

It's a damn shame the employee purchase of the mill fell through. I wonder how different growing up in Youngstown in the 90s would have been if the government would have helped us out and preserved the jobs the valley depended on. At least we didn't take it laying down I guess, I'm glad that Youngstown put up a fight. 

Youngstown Sheet and Tube Campbell Works

Campbell, O. - The boys in the Open Hearth department receiving their award for 1,000,000 man hours without a major injury.

My pops made his living, until shortly after Black Monday, hauling hot slag out of the Open Hearth in Campbell. I wonder if he knew these guys. He drove a slag truck for Industrial Mill Service until they shut down the Campbell works. He was working night turn, and after his last shift running to the slag dump he and his coworkers went for a drink to drown their sorrows. He said they went to a "social club" in Struthers called Saint Anthony's that served liquor at 7am on a Sunday, which I'm assuming was against Ohio liquor laws haha. 

A story he told me when I was younger still sticks with me. Apparently a ladle accidentally spilled hot metal on the floor in the mill, and they needed to get it cleaned up in a hurry. They loaded the molten metal into the open top dump trucks they used to haul the slag. It was so hot that the sides of the trailer were glowing red. The Christmas decorations were up in downtown Strudders, you know the wreaths and what not they hang from the streetlights. The decorations were melting off of the poles when he stopped under them, and the people walking down the street were taking cover from the heat radiating from the trailer. 

Industrial Recreation

Steel Valley, O. - Let's talk baseball. At one point, company sanctioned or sponsored sports teams were the norm in the Valley.

I started looking into this because my mom knew a friend of mine's mother from playing with her for General Electric's softball team. She played for a team made up of employee's from GE's Youngstown Lamp plant and Austintown Coil. Not sure if the Warren plants, where she worked originally, had their own teams or what.

Warren, O. - I thought my mom's mom was in a Copperweld Steel Co. ladies bowling league for some reason but apparently I was wrong. What I did find out was that my grandpa played for Copperweld's ball club. The 35" mill kittyballers!!! Man I wish I had that shirt. My gramps is second from the right, squatting down. See below. Thanks to Aunt Denise for this photo.

Youngstown, O. - Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co's ball team. This photo is from the 1920s. Carnegie controlled the Ohio Works, the Upper Union Mills (Crescent St area) and the Lower Union Mills (near West Ave on the north side of the river). I wonder if each mill fielded it's own team, or if they all played as the Youngstown district. The "Lower Union Mills" jerseys throw me off. The block C on their hats reminds me of the Indians logo, which reminds me of the phrase "We're underway, at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario!" - Tom Hamilton, best announcer in baseball. Image below courtesy of the Ohio History Collection.

Youngstown, O. - Found this in a General Fireproofing company bulletin I acquired. Looks like they had a pretty mean softball team. Lots of familiar last names in this one. Maloney's, Palermo's, Tyndall's, Russo's, Zarlenga's. I posted something on FB about GF, and people were telling me they had a beautiful ball field down off Logan Avenue. Image below.

Youngstown, O. - Labor Day, 1939. Two years after the deadly Stop 5 riot during the Little Steel Strike. The boys from the Youngstown Sheet and Tube ball club posing for a photo at Idora Park. Image below courtesy of the Ohio History Collection.

Struthers, O. - An iconic image of a Youngstown Sheet and Tube ballgame at Campbell Park dated 1926. The blast furnaces at the Campbell works, and all of their beautiful soot, across Poland Avenue in the background. Image below courtesy of the Ohio History Collection.

YST Ball Game Campbell Park 1926.jpg

Ghost Signs

Steel Valley, O. - I was in Youngstown a couple weekends back, and went ghost sign hunting. Found some gems I want people to see so here you go.

 

Youngstown, O. - The William B. Pollock Company.

Never thought I would find something this historically significant. I came across this on accident, was down the bottom of Himrod Avenue looking for this company, but was looking at the wrong building. Gave up and went next door to photgraph the old 10/90 warehouse (a dress factory converted to a semi legal skate park in the 90s), looked up and saw something painted on the wall of the building across the street. Sure and begorrah it was the logo for the William B. Pollock Co. You can barely make out the logo on the wall, but check out the Pollock ad below and compare the two. Founded in 1863, this company built America. They engineered and built blast furnaces and hot metal cars. This plant right at the end of Federal St. had a hand in revolutionizing the steel industry. They were responsible for engineering and building the Trumbull Cliffs furnace, which I believe at that time was the largest blast furnace in the world. This furnace was owned by Republic Steel, WCI Steel, Severstal and RG Steel. She is the last blast furnace in the Steel Valley, and is in the midst of demolition. 

Girard, O. - Youngstown Sheet and Tube Brier Hill Works. 

This is a two for one bonus. Behind the fading "Syro Steel Brier Hill Div" ghost sign, you can see the yellow and black sign they painted over peeking through. The original sign proudly read "Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company". I know this because there was an identical Sheet and Tube sign on the side of the Struthers works that faced the river/Wilson Ave. That building is gone, but I photographed it 15 years ago or so, see bottom photo (old photo, excuse poor quality). If you zoom in on the current photo, you will see the "Syro Steel Entrance" sign on the sloped building that is dwarfed by that roof vent that is sitting on the ground. This was an underground entrance into the mill, and man I want to go down there.  

Niles, O. - Republic Steel 

I took this photo just over 10 years ago. I went back recently to photograph it again with a better camera, only to find they painted it over. Glad I got this when I did.

Youngstown, O. - The Snyder-Bentley Co.

I don't know much about this company, except they are located across the street from what was Carnegie Steel's Upper Union Mills. The were an industrial distributor of some sort formed in the 20's, and they have a cool looking sign.

Youngstown, O.- Brier Hill Slag Co.

This isn't a ghost sign in the traditional sense I suppose, but it's gone so it applies to me. Damn I wish I would have preserved this thing. This sat in front of what was Sheet and Tube Brier Hill works. I took this as they were tearing down the YST office building in the background. I think Youngstown Steel Heritage ( http://www.todengine.org/ ) has the engraved stone sign that was at the top of the building that read "Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company".

Warren, O. - Copperweld Steel Co. 

This isn't a ghost sign either, but my grandpa worked here 33 years so you're going to have to deal with looking at it. Did you know during WWII Copperweld rolled and stretched uranium for the war effort? My grandpa was away fighting ze Germans, but when he came home he worked a rolling mill out there. Wonder if it was one that rolled the radioactive material for the Manhattan Project.

J&L Steel + P&LE RR

Youngstown, OH: These photos, which i borrowed from eBay, show the transition of industrial assets during the fall of the steel industry. Re-industrialization maybe?

J&L Steel - Campbell, OH: What once was Sharon Steel Hoop Corp. transitioned to J&L Steel. J&L did not have much of a presence in Youngstown, but their mills dominated the south side Pittsburgh skyline. The Youngstown mill is where my great uncle Al Grilli worked most of his life. When he retired this was known as Cold Metal Products. The photos below show the way they transitioned these mills in the 80s, in this case they just slapped some paint over the iconic J&L, and didn't even take care to cover the whole logo. The mill is still active, and is now known as Youngstown Pipe and Steel. 

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie RR: Locomotive #1501, which once was a workhorse for the "Little Giant" P&LE RR. At some point this loco transitioned to use on the Youngstown & Austintown RR. What once pulled massive amounts of raw materials and finished prodcuts for the steel industry, became my alarm clock in the summer. I grew up 8 houses from the Y&A line on North Hazelwood Avenue. Every morning around 9:15, the Y&A would blast it's horn, which let me know it was time to go down by the tracks and play. I would run outside and count the cars, which was usually 3 or 4. This loco was on light duty in it's retirement compared to what it used to pull I'm sure. Either way, it played a major part in my childhood. It makes me think of the men who ran it for the P&LE in it's heyday, and how their lives were affected by the closing of that rail road. Photos below courtesy www.railpictures.net