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  

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. 

IMG_1193.JPG

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. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown, O. - Photos of "Americanization Classes" at a community hall owned and operated by the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. There is not a date or location called out, but I am guessing this was from the early 1900's and located somewhere along Wilson Avenue. The location is a guess, but an educated one, based on the tin ceilings shown in the photos that are similar to one's I have seen at buildings down there that sat across from the Campbell works. I'm assuming this would have been located near the mill so the employees could walk to it. 

In the full size version of the image above, you can make out the lettering on the window, that states "Free Night School and Reading Room For Foreign Speaking Men and Women - Community Hall - Reading Writing Spelling". Sheet & Tube didn't have a problem hiring immigrants, or segregating them by department, but you better get your ass assimilated pronto. This may have been in response to the riots during the steel strike in 1919, when the company decided to do more for the employees to ensure that East Youngstown (later renamed Campbell for the president of the company) was not burned again. 

I've seen the framed photos on the wall before, I'm pretty sure some images from this series hang in my Westside breakfast spot The Donut Oven, I mean Landmark. 

The William B. Pollock Co.

Youngstown, O. - A ladle ready to ship out from the William B. Pollock Co. in the 1970s, destined for the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.'s Indiana Harbor works. Although Pollock and Sheet & Tube are out of business, the Indiana Harbor mill still makes steel, operated by Arcelor Mittal. 

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.

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown, O. - *Edit* Although the photo was marked "Hot saws in YS&T blooming mill", I am told by multiple former employees of Sheet & Tube as well as the Director of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation that this was the billet mill at the Campbell works. What a photo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown, O. This photo, dated 1910, does not list a location but shows steelworkers at Youngstown Sheet & Tube tapping a blast furnace long before the days of aluminized silver suits. 

Photo courtesy of Ohio History Connection

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. open hearth stacks. No location provided. The photo is marked 1977, but no information beyond that available. Not sure of the historical value of this photo, besides the fact it may have been taken the year they started the shutdowns, but I found it aesthetically pleasing. I wish I took this photo, or was born early enough to have had the chance. 

Image courtesy of Ohio History Connection

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works

Youngstown, O. - Photo of the rolling mill gang at the YS&T Brier Hill works. Can you imagine working a job so dangerous that they marked safety milestones based on 24 injury free hours?

Photo courtesy of the Ohio Memory Project - No date availiable 

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