Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

GIrard, O. - A track walk and some photos of a now demolished steel mill in 2005 would lead to my extremely short lived employment in the steel industry and an interesting connection to my father.

We parked near the former Pennsylvania RR coaling tower in Girard and started hiking down the tracks. It is now falling over, but the coal tower still stands - you can see it from Route 80.  Passing under 80 and heading further south we came upon the former Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. Brier Hill works.

The building to the left was in use, occupied by Syro Steel, but there wasn't much going on in the building to the right so we went in to take a look and some photos. Good thing we did because this giant structure is now gone. It was built during WWI and housed an 84 inch and 132 inch plate mill, and later an experimental hot strip mill per Rick Rowlands. The first time I saw the Tod Engine, which he eventually restored and built a museum around, was down here but I seem to have lost those photos. It was stored here prior to moving it to Hubbard Rd.

The photos in the next set got me hired into this same mill. I had the image below as a screen saver on my work computer - it was the most "artistic" looking photo I had ever taken, even though I didn't know what I was doing.

A customer of mine saw that and I wound up showing him the whole series. He says you're a steel man? I say no but my whole family was, why? It turned out he was the owner of the company that had the contract to staff V&M Star Steel and he needed a foreman. For whatever reason he offers me the job. I ran a die line in a plastic extrusion factory for a while, but had no steel experience and was currently selling cell phones for a living. But he needed a foreman and I figured it was my birthright so we started negotiating. He agreed to pay me $18 an hour so I was ready to quit my current job. It was a pay cut but I figured I'd work my way back up.

My employment lasted a shift. I got to ride around and take a tour of the mill with the superintendent and then he took me to my job. They were going to have me cutting tube rounds as my training, which was cool with me (tube rounds meaning solid steel logs that had not been pierced to make seamless pipe).

I just sat in an elevated office, and when the rounds came down the table I would stop them and press a button that made the plasma cutter come down and cut it to length. This took me back to my childhood. I lived 5 minutes from this mill and in the summer with the windows open I would lay in bed and hear steel clanging around all night. When the rounds were cut they dropped from the table to the floor; I think this is the sound I grew up hearing.

The superintendent came back at the end of the day to have me sign the paperwork. He hands it to me and it says $11.00 an hour. I say what's this? I'm making forty some thousand a year to stand in the air conditioning and talk to pretty girls at the cell phone shop, what happened to the $18 an hour? He stuck to the $11 an hour offer, something about policy or some bullshit, I told him to stick it. 

Alright, one more personal story then I'll show yins the rest of the photos. I was showing these images to my pops and he sees this overhead crane that was laying out in the yard. He says wait is that Brier Hill, I say yeah why? Turns out he hauled this crane here from what was J&L Steel Aliquippa works when they were demolishing that mill. 

Ok I lied, one more personal connection. My cousin was an Ironworker on the V&M expansion project. Part of the plans for the expansion, which is right next to where this building was, was to strip the building to the beams and then re-sheet and reuse it. Once they spent the man hours stripping it down, they realized the structure was out of plumb and could not be used. Photo of the skeleton below. They eventually tore the whole thing down and the foundation is now an exterior pipe yard. 

Click to enlarge the photos in the gallery below. 

All images copyright Paul Grilli / The Rust Jungle 2018

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  

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.

Sharon Steel Corp.

Farrell, PA. - I was contacted by Jason W. in response to the video posted showing the Norman Rockwell series he painted of steelworkers at Sharon Steel. His great grandfather Bob Addicott was one of the men featured in the paintings, working in vacuum degassing.

Here is a YouTube video that discusses the paintings, and features an interview with two of the men Rockwell painted, one being Mr. Addicott. 

Jason also included the photo below of his grandfather working in the same mill. Pictured is his grandfather at the top of the steps, watching the pouring a heat at the electric furnace.

The mill still runs, but the electric furnace is long gone. Below is a video of the failed attempts at demolishing this building. Per the video author: "This was the Sharon Steel Corp. electric furnace. Not enough explosives to bring this down. There was a second attempt about a week later, which also didn't have enough explosives. They then tried to pull this down manually with a cable and a bulldozer, which also didn't work. The building actually blew down with some high winds a few days later.".

Republic Steel Corp.

Youngstown, O. - These photos were submitted to the site by Eugene K., of Hermitage PA. Gene was kind enough to mail me actual prints of the decommissioned blast furnaces at Republic Steel's Hazelton furnaces that he developed in the 80's. These were taken sometime between shut down and demolition. I have not seen photos from these angles before and couldn't be more pleased to share them with you all. Posterity baby. 

Here is a bit more about Gene's connection to the steel industry in his words: "I grew up in Boardman in the late seventies/early eighties. My father was a steelworker. He worked for a short time at the Edgar Thompson USS works in Braddock, PA out of high school, then he moved to Youngstown after WWII and worked at GF (General Fireproofing) for 42 years. I sort of grew up around the mills since my maternal Grandmother lived in Strudders and my paternal Grandmother lived on Campbell. I do remember the smells of quenching coke, watching slag trucks go down Lowellville Rd with red hot loads or crossing Center St. bridge at night and seeing the molten iron flowing out of the blast furnace and the workers dressed in their fire suits!"

What great photos, and a quintessential Steel Valley story to go along with them. Thanks again for submitting Gene! 

Republic Steel Corp. Sign Shop

Warren, O. - In the days before vinyl graphics and digital printers, sign makers used a brush, One Shot sign paint, and a steady hand. Republic Steel had a sign shop in their Warren works that hand lettered safety signs, trucks and locomotives among other things. Their work could be seen at the Warren plant, as well as the Youngstown mills, Niles works and Newton Falls plant. The photo below was taken by Rick Rowlands of Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation during an auction of former Republic/WCI/RG Steel equipment as the new owner was preparing to scrap the mill. I wish that sign shop sign could have been preserved damn it, it is a testament to the dying art form of hand lettered signs. And basic steelmaking. 

By night I am a guerrilla historian, but day I am a mild mannered project manager for a commercial sign company. I enjoy the work, it pays the bills and lets me travel, but the projects that really excite me are the ones that involve a real live sign painter. It is truly an art form that is dying before my eyes. These people (wall dogs and letterheads they call themselves) are incredibly difficult to find. I am up to the challenge of finding a painter when a customer requests it, I feel like I am doing something to preserve the craft. Some of the work can be emulated with a vinyl plotter and a decent graphic designer but it is just not the same. 

Case in point: the hard hats below. I had been looking for the man that lettered the 35 or 40 years of service anniversary hard hats that were given to Republic Steel employees in the Youngstown district.

Thanks to this website, and the power of the internet, I was able to locate the man who is not only still alive, but still practicing his craft!! I was excited just to talk to him for a moment, but when he agreed to letter a hard hat for me like the ones he used to do down the mill I was ecstatic. This is now one of my prize possessions, one that I will keep for the rest of my life. Hand lettered and signed by the man himself, Jack Tolson. Below are photos of my new hat next to the one he wore in the mill for years. 

Since my time working in the steel industry consisted of a half a shift cutting tube rounds down the former Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works, I didn't think it would be right to ask him to put 30 years of service on the hat. Instead, he included The Rust Jungle logo, which is a tribute to the YST hook and bucket logo. He was also kind enough to put on some origioanl Republic Steel, WCI Steel, and RG Steel stickers on it that he still had from his time down there. Jack worked there that long, starting in the 50's in the galvanized department. He's a great guy with great stories to tell. I must have been at his house for an hour and a half shooting the shit with him.

"Sign Painter - Paint Shop"

When I heard they were tearing down the blast furnace, I frantically starting calling the demo company in an effort to purchase the remaining signage in the mill. I had seen the hand painted signs on the exterior, assumed the same guy that lettered the hats painted them, and was on a mission to see them preserved. 

As I was offering cash, the contractor allowed me access to the entire blast fce. side of the mill. My requests since that day requesting a quote to purchase the signs have gone unanswered. I am only looking to buy a small amount of scrap metal, not tons, so the sons of bitches don't have time to reply. To hell with em. 

I planned on donating most of the signs to the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation to be displayed, but to no avail. I did photograph them, and they can't sell that to the Chinese as scrap. See below for some examples of Jack's handiwork. 

 

 

"DANGER - DO NOT STAND IN FRONT OF CANNON" This safety sign was referencing an air cannon that would keep migratory birds out of some holding pond. It also did a great job of keeping residents of Warren awake. It was some EPA regulation. The pond is gone, the cannon is gone, the BOF side of the mill is gone, but this sign Jack painted remians. 

Copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

"TRUCKS OVER 5 TON - STOP - STAY ON R.R. TRACK" -  This sign was just before the hot metal bridge that ran over Main Ave. that would take molten iron from the blast fce. side over to basic oxygen furnace to be converted to steel. The bridge is to the right, the cold blast furnace peeks up to the left. 

Copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

"MAHONING VALLEY DISTRICT - FIRE BRIGADE COMPETITION" - I found this years ago inside a boxcar across Pine Ave. from Republic. Apparently it referred to a competition between the fire departments in different Republic mills in the Steel Valley. 

Copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

Another example of Jack's work. 

Copyright Rick Rowlands

So that's it. Even if the demolition company wouldn't sell me the signs and is content to let them go to the scrap heap, I still have a piece of our history. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

No location given - A Bessemer Converter blow lighting up the mill at Youngstown Sheet & Tube. Not to be confused with Bessemer Street on the Westside, or Bessemer, PA., this was the method for turning iron to steel prior to the open hearth process. They would blow oxygen through the hot iron and the impurities would puke out of the top and rain down like hell fire and brimstone. That's what you're seeing here. 

If you want to see one of these beasts in person they have preserved one at Station Square in Pittsburgh. That converter was built by the Pennsylvania Engineering Corp. on the south side of New Castle which was demolished recently. The converter is cold now, but it originally worked at Ambridge, PA. 

Ambridge is an odd name right? It was a company town, full of employees of the US Steel subsidiary American Bridge Co. Get it, Am Bridge?  

Stop 5 Riot

Youngstown, O. - Today, 6/19/2017, marks the 80 year anniversary of the Stop 5 Riot at the gates of Republic Steel on Poland Avenue. This event is one that should never be forgotten. 

Below is an eyewitness account of the bloodshed that took place that day, which was called ladies day where the picket lines were manned by wives of the striking workers. There are other accounts out there, from the police and the chairman of the board of Repbulic at that time, but we should start here. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

The most important passage from this account, in my opinion, is this: "Soon thereafter, the sky was lit up with flares fired from the plant and was followed with a fusillade of machine gun fire from the overhead cranes in the old tube mill". Jesus Criminelli. 

The Vindicator reported that over 160,000 rounds of ammunition were purchased for the strike between Youngstown Sheet & Tube and Republic Steel. Let that sink in. 

The photos of National Guard machine gunners below were taken in Warren not long after the Stop 5 incident. 

 Machine gunners on hot metal bridge in Warren. Trumbull Cliffs furnace in background. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Machine gunners on hot metal bridge in Warren. Trumbull Cliffs furnace in background. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Machine gunners on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Machine gunners on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

The strikers were not innocent in all of this, at least some of them were waging warfare against the company. I'm not saying this should have given the company a license to kill, but they used it as justification. Photos of sabotage below.

 Derailed box cars on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Derailed box cars on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Pennsylvania Rail Road cars with hoppers opened up. Looks like they were hauling in limestone for the Blast Fce. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Pennsylvania Rail Road cars with hoppers opened up. Looks like they were hauling in limestone for the Blast Fce. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

There was so much tension at the Republic mills becuase they refused to close them, and still had employees working inside that didn't support the union. See below for telegraphs that were sent to holdouts in the Warren works.

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Segregated religious services were held for the holdouts in the mills, who were forced to live in the plants for fear of reprisal as they left the gates. 

 Employee housing near the stainless mill. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Employee housing near the stainless mill. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Images below show how strong the tensions were between both sides. The holdouts in the mill hung an effigy of a CIO striker at the No. 1 hot strip mill, the strikers prepared a gate ramming car to breach the line.

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

All of this fighting and bloodshed was all for naught. The union still was unable to organize, and after the murders at Stop 5 the National Guard was deployed and put the strike down for good. The union may have gained some ground, but 80 years later these mills are either demolished, in the process of being demo'd, or sitting there rusting. The photo below was taken days after the killings in Youngstown. They repealed the beer ban that was in place during the strike, and it was back to business as usual. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Republic Steel Corp. - Little Steel Strike

Warren, O. - As the Little Steel Strike heated up, many Republic Steel Corp. mills closed due to the pickets, but others remained operating with a skeleton crew of employees loyal to the company. The Warren works was one of these mills. The pickets were preventing food and supplies from being brought into the mills for the (scabs) men that stayed on, so the company improvised. 

Republic management initially used one biplane to drop supplies into the Niles mill. After a few failed attempts where the packages fell outside of the gates and were taken by pickets, they were eventually successful. Republic's president bought four more planes that day, and the fleet evenutally numbered 9 planes. A makeshift airfield was set up at the Warren works. 

It didn't take long for the strikers to realize the flights were effective. The planes launched from a secret airfield, and were reported to have altered their identification numbers. The strikers took matters into their own hands, and started hunting for the airfield and allegedly attempting to shoot down the planes as they flew into the mill. This was war, right in the middle of the Steel Valley. See the Vindicator headlines from 80 years ago today below. 

6/1/1937

6/2/1937 -  This plane was rumored to have been shot down.

5/31/1937

Even with the supposed anti-aircraft fire, the airdrops kept the mills running. The illustration on the envelope sent to the Trumbull Cliff Furnace (Republic Warren works) seems to indicate the S.W.O.C/C.I.O. was losing the battle, judging by the plane and the smoke still coming from the stacks. 

Press photos below, coutesy of the Ohio Memory Collection, that show the airfield at Warren and the urgency they unloaded the planes with. They say the men on the ground were under fire as well. 

The strike continued to rage on, and would evenutally escalate to more bloodshed and the loss of life on the steelworker's side at a Republic mill in Youngstown. More to come on that, don't change that dial.

William Tod Co.

Youngstown, O. - The works of the William Tod Co., which became United Engineering & Foundry Co., and most recently Wean United. They manufactured steel mill equipment (see attached), including some of the worlds most powerful rolling mill engines, which at one time could be found throughout the world. Two examples that I know of still exist. One is rusting away on the grounds of Weirton Steel, and has been since they tore the blooming mill building down around it. I actually had the opportunity to photograph it before it was left outside to rust, I'll post those photos eventually. IN THE MEANTIME, if you want to see the only preserved and restored example of the engines that came out of this plant, check out todengine.org or go see it at the museum on Hubbard Rd.

This facility that helped build America's infrastructure was torn down a few years ago to make way for a brownfield. My buddy Trillions, aka Squirrley Dan, used to work here as part of the OWE program (or work release as I called it) at Chaney High School. They would let you out of school early to go work; it was some occupational program I guess. A company called OH&R, or something to that effect, used part of the buildings to fab or sort or store steel bar. Or something, this was a long time ago, pardon the foggy details. Anyhow, I used to go pick this kid up from work at the main gates at the end of Phleps and he would come out to the car completely covered in soot, grease and grime. Everybody else that would walk out looked relatively clean, so I ask was he running a tow motor like he told me he was or working in a damn coal mine? He tells me that he really spent most of his time sleeping or looking for places to sleep on top of the stacks of bar haha. 

I think these photos are ten years old, give or take. I didn't care to photograph it when it was coming down like every Tom Dick and Harry with a camera, I was pretty unhappy with the fact that they were demolishing it. I want to say the downtown resident crowd was pushing to replace our heritage with a dog park at that time. 

I am almost positive I took these the day we met Spaceman. Trillions and I walked from downtown to Himrod on the railroad tracks that follow the river, with a pack of smokes and what appears to be a plastic camera based on the quality of these images. We come across this older guy that had built a deck that cantilevered out over the Mahoning down under the Market Street bridge. This guy was cool as hell. A little out there, but cool. Introduced himself as Spaceman and goes on to tell us he built the deck by hand using material he scavenged. I thought he had a pretty nice set up. The city was kicking him out and knocking down the deck as they were getting ready to build the Chevy Center. I hope they end up doing something with this land and build that amphitheater. It's either that, or Spaceman and I are going down there and building a new deck. 

Republic Steel Corp.

Youngstown, O. - We are coming up on the 100 year anniversary of the date this beautiful photograph was taken - 7/31/1917. This is a now demolished blast furnace at Republic Steel, in the Hazelton area. Think Poland Ave. and Center Street.

I was wandering around down there and found a brick marked Niles No. 1. Niles Firebrick was a manufacturer of refractory brick, so that piece of masonry I carried home may well have been used to line this furnace.

I wonder if this was taken by a company photographer or who? They made a gorgeous large format film photo I know that. Damn I was born 100 years too late. Wish that would have been me getting paid to take this. 

Photo courtesy of Ohio Memory collection. 

US Steel Ohio Works

Youngstown, O. Today marks the the 35th anniversary of not only my first memory as a child, but the end of one hell of an era in Youngstown history. The day the four remaining blast furnaces in Youngstown fell. 

Lookit these damn vultures

I vividly remember the day it happened. If you looked out of our front window, across the street you could see the tops of these monolithic structures peeking up over Jimmy Sebena's roof. Jimmy was awesome. His daughter saved my brother's life. Jimmy told me after they landed at Normandy they confiscated all this French money. Said he won so much in the dice games he came home damn near rich, but it was like Monopoly money over there. He called me Pauley and enjoyed sitting on his front porch and spitting. All night in the summer, between the sounds of the Harleys roaring up Hazelwood and the tube rounds clanging around down the former Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works, you would hear Jimmy hawker. But that's neither here nor there. 

Back to April 28th, 1982. My mom brought me to our picture window, and opened the front door so we could hear the explosion. I remember looking over the roof of the Sebena's and watching "the smokestacks" as I called them start to lean. You felt the house shake, and then you heard the explosion. It blew my young mind that the sound came later. I didn't know much about physics at just shy of 3 years old. I also didn't know much about the steel industry and how the fact they abandoned my hometown would effect the economy and my life in general either, but that would change.

I attended an old timers reunion at the Youngstown Historical Center of Labor and Industry last year, and got to sit down with one of the last US Steel employees in the Steel Valley. Tom was named Project Engineer, and was tasked with selling off the remaining USS properties, and oversaw the demolition of the Ohio Works. The demo company provided him a stack of photos of the demo, which was meant to be used as a flip book. Below is a video of him flipping through the shots at that event. 

Tom was nice enough to give me a copy of a transcript of a speech he had recently given, which details the fate of every damn US Steel property in the Valley. Definitly worth a read if you're into that subject. Which I sure as hell am. 

US Steel Ohio Works

Youngstown, O. -This photo is dated 1947, I am guessing this was a rebuild of the #4 blast furnace. This photo features questionable safety practices and a nice birds eye view of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works in the background. The caption reads "Sledging shrink link into place on top ring casting at US Steel Ohio Works Youngstown Ohio"

Photo courtesy of the Ohio Memory Project. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works

Youngstown, O. - This photo is interesting to me for a few reasons, but let's look past the (now defunct) Erie Lackawanna RR in the foreground, the (now demolished) Sheet & Tube blast furnace to the left and what I think is a (now demolished) US Steel blast furnace in the center/background. 

Let's talk about the old Division Street bridge on the left of the photo, which was taken in 1975. Right before they knocked down the bridge, my buddy Vito and I decided to walk over it to Brier Hill from the Westside. I remember holes in the pavement that you could see through to the ground below, and a single shoe in the middle of the bridge. I started to climb the arch on the Brier Hill side, holding either side of the H beam and using the half-a tennis ball sized rivets for footing. Made it less than 50' up the arch and came right back down hah. Didn't feel like falling 100 feet that day.

I was one of the last people on the old bridge, and one of the first on the new 711 version of the bridge. Right before they opened it, I drove up the Stephens St off ramp and cruised the wrong way to Brier Hill. Another dumb ass move, but it was closed to traffic so no harm no foul. 

Photo credit: Akron Rail Road Club

St. Mary's Byzantine Rite Church

Youngstown, O.

This Greek Catholic church was located in the heart of Youngstown's Steelton neighborhood, and was literally across the street from where U.S. Steel’s Ohio Works once stood. I wonder what mass was like with the sounds of an integrated steel mill playing back up to the organ? Bang clang bang woosh clang (Amen) train whistle clang clang bang maybe? 

Below is an interior photo of the church in it's early years. When I documented the building in 2010 or 11, the beautiful mosaic floor was carpeted, and the ornate ceiling was dry walled over. A few years after I took these photos an arsonist burned the church down to the brick walls.

 

Images below circa 2010 +/-

 Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

 Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

 Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

 Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

 Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

 Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

The night of the fire. Photo and video below courtesy of Nicholas Serra.

 Copyright Nicholas Serra. 

Copyright Nicholas Serra. 

Weirton Steel

tumblr_lmqsgmKEhk1qfcoqdo1_1280.jpg

Weirton, West Virginia - Dead 15 and 50 town overhead cranes in the rolling mill engine shop.

I shot this shortly before this building came down; was there to document the Tod Engine that ran this mill. As far as I know then engine still sits in the yard rusting away where the rolling mill shed was.