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

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.

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. 

Sharon Steel Corp.

Farrell, Penna - The still standing Cowper stoves that held the super heated hot blast, or wind as it was called, for the long demolished blast furnaces at the former Sharon Steel works in Farrell, PA. This mill is now owned by NLMK, a Russian outfit. They still operate finishing mills here, but there's no need for a blast fce. when your basic steel is shipped in as slabs from mother Russia.

This photo was taken in 2008, the furnaces fell in 1995. See below for a heart breaking article from the Sharon Herald.

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

At 6 p.m. Friday, “Judy” died.

Cause of death: Nobody wanted to pay to keep her alive.

Standing nearly 110 feet tall and dressed in blackened steel, she was hardly the most attractive gal in town. Yet, when she belched out smoke, she was beloved.

Sharon Steel Corp.'s No 2 blast furnace, nicknamed Judy, met its fate with explosives and crashed to the earth with a “kathump.” The No.3 furnace, which stood next to No. 2, was felled at the same time. An old No. 1 furnace housed at the mill was dismantled about 70 years ago.

Accompanied by a flash of yellow light, the explosion could be heard for miles around the Farrell steel mill.

Steel from both furnaces will be picked apart and sold for scarp.

The Schoonover Co. paid $1.65 million for the right to scrap parts of the Farrell mill. The Ecorse, Mich., company began its estimated 10-month project in December. Sharon Steel owns land on the section of the mill Schoonover is scrapping.

Ray Schoonover, owner of the company, estimated that both furnaces combined will yield 15, 000 tons of steel.

One hundred pounds of plastic explosive was needed to blow up the furnaces, said Doug Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc. Schoonover hired the Phoenix. Md., company to demolish both furnaces.

An hour before pushing the button that set off the explosive, Loizaaux briefly explained that each furnace was supported by eight cast steel legs. Schoonover tore out two legs in each furnace before Friday. CDI thought the legs were made of cast iron, which is more brittle and easier to explode than cast steel.

“We had to use twice as much explosive than we thought, ” Loizeaux said.

Success or failure in a demolition project is immediately known.

“It's fun,” he said of his work. “You get to meet a lot of people. ”

Judy received much attention during the 1960's when the aging No. 1 furnace needed to be replaced. At the time, Sharon Steel said it needed No. 2 repaired to survive.

When the repaired No. 2 furnace was dedicated in 1968, it was named after then-Farrell resident Judy Nath. She and her husband, Charles, had owned a consulting firm that helped secure a $5.2 million federal Urban Development Action Grant for the project. Nath, who died in 1987, had been city manager and redevelopment director in Farrell.

His widow has since remarried and now lives in Pullman, Wash.

A blast furnace produces molten iron ore that is used to make steel. When operating, the No. 2 furnace could produce about 60,000 tons of iron ore a month. Sharon Steel idled the furnace when it closed the mill in November 1992. Later that month, Sharon Steel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company is now selling all its assets to pay its creditors.

Caparo Inc., which bought much of the mill from Sharon Steel in December, didn't want the blast furnaces. Instead, Caparo will use the two electric furnaces at the mill to produce steel.

Immediately after the blast and the crash of the furnaces, an excited Schoonover employee could be heard congratulating Loizeaux over two-way radio.

“Great job. You're the best in the world,” the worker said.

Loizeaux tried to calm him down.

“Don't tell me what a great job I did, just give me my paycheck,” Loizeaux joked.


Here are some thoughts on the demise of “Judy” from those who were involved with Sharon Steel Corp:

  • Judith Breedlove,for whom the No. 2 furnace was named. She and her husband, the late Charles Nath, operated a consulting firm that helped secure federal funding for the No. 2 furnace that resulted in the furnace being repaired for reuse in 1988. She's now a teacher in Pullman, Wash. What I'll remember the most about the furnace is the hours we spent on the phone with Sharon Steel officials about what was needed to get the funding. We tried to take the middle-or-the-road approach to make everyone happy and get the project approved. ”
  • Henry Evans,former vice chairman at Sharon Steel who worked at the mill since 1933. He now is a consultant with Caparo Steel Co., which bought much of the Farrell mill. “If they would have gotten a continuous caster, Sharon Steel would still be there with the blast furnace producing steel. If there was a caster in there now, that place would be booming.”
  • Phillip A. Smalley,former senior vice president of human resources at Sharon Steel, He now is a managed health care and employment relations consultant. “I don't look at it with a sense of saddness. It signals the plant has changed from an integrated mill to a mini-mill, and that's long overdue. The man who uses yesterday's methods in today's work won't be in busninss tomorrow. ”
  • Eugene C. Pacsi, mayor of Farrell, “ I think when Caparo (Steel) came in, we knew at the time they weren't going to use the blast furnace. Time goes by, and there's a different way to run a steel mill. In a way, I'm glad we'll still have a steel mill … but there are a lot of memories there though. ”
  • Howard Clark, former president of United Steelworkers Local 1197, which represented 2,200 production and maintenance workers at Sharon Steel. Clark is now retired. “It's a sad day, and it's a sad situation - but that's the way it is. I know one thing, it's sure a shame that all those people who worked there all those years lost their retirement health care benefits. ”

Automatic Sprinkler Co. of America

Youngstown, O. - The remains of the Automatic Sprinkler Co. of America. This firm was incorporated in 1919, and the headquarters was moved to Youngstown in 1936, which was the location of their main plant. Automatic was sold to Harry Figgie, Jr in 1963 and continued to manufacture fire suppression equipment in Youngstown up until 1967. There was an ongoing strike, and a decision was made by  Figgie to move the production out of state with no warning to the employees. According to the Vindicator photo below, they were informed by the newspaper's photographer that they were out of a job. This decision was touted in his biography as a shrewd business move, but I say it was a good reason to get punched in the mouth. He did go on to be successful, but so did Art Model. This was the beginning of major companies being sold off to out of town interests that had little to no concern for the workers in the Valley. 


I don't know if the water was off or what, but the reason this place is in such bad shape is that it burned repeatedly in 2012. The sprinklers did't appear to do their job.

Sprinkler Head.

Sprinkler Head.

I was aware of this building for some years, but never made it over to shoot it before the fires. While looking at a Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the area, I noticed this factory and the fact that it was noted to have wood block floors (see below). That is what peaked my interest. Also of note is the fact that there are three houses left on Brittain Street, one of which is burned out.

Below are photos of the nearly 100 year old wood block floor. They are really bricks that are made from some type of treated lumber instead of clay. It looks like the floor buckled a bit during the fire here, but was surprisingly in tact other than that. Especially for the fact that the building that used to shelter it was long gone, and the floor was exposed to the elements. 

Found the names written below in the concrete that butted up against the block floor. 




There was a vault onsite that had seen better days. Not sure what they stored in here, but I live in a 105 year old factory, and 3' from my front door is a similar vault marked Tools & Dies. I keep my rolling cooler in there. 

Exterior of Door

Inside Vault

Lock Exterior

Lock Interior

Below are images of the results of the fires/partial demolition. Think about the people that live in the house in the background. How would you like to wake up to this view every day?

Structural Issues - See Below.

Below are some detail shots that I thought were interesting, beginning with the oldest UL sticker I have ever seen in the wild.

Underwriters Laboratories 


Hot seat

Hot seat

Made in China

Fish Eyes

Fish Eyes

End of Turn

Handwriting No. 1

Handwriting No. 2

All photos copyright Paul Grilli 2017

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 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. 

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. 

Republic Steel Corp

Youngstown, O. - The former Republic Steel Co. pattern storage building, just across Poland Avenue from their Youngstown plant near Center Street. I have been past this building before and wondered what company once occupied it, as it looked like a mill shed. I was looking through Sanborn fire insurance maps from the 1920s researching another manufacturer in the area, and noticed this was Republic Steel property.             

The one-time pattern storage building is not completely abandoned, it appears it is still used for storage of some sort by the modern business that sits on the property. I wandered around on Powersdale to see if I could find a better place to shoot from. I didn't find another way in, but I like the photo I made so it worked out.

As I was walking around looking for a hole in the fence, I noticed a discarded hypodermic needle on the sidewalk. It really drove home the reality and severity of the heroin epidemic in Youngstown. I say this having known way too many people that have died from an overdose, and plenty more that have lost their will to live because of it, but the needle sitting there affected me. Was someone running from the police and toss it? Did they use it and throw it out the window like a cigarette butt? 

Last year I was discussing the heroin problem with two guys that have documented the Youngstown area since the downfall of the steel industry in the 80s and they made a very interesting point. They suggested that once the jobs suddenly disappeared, that people were in such shock, and felt such a sense of despair that they began to self medicate. It could have been liquor, or coke, or crack or heroin, but the point remains that if you have nothing to live for you turn to things like that.


I had a conversation recently with a man who's father was a psychologist in Youngstown in the 70s and 80s. He was there for the mass shutdowns and recalls the stress it caused the people of the valley. He states that depression, suicide and psychosis were so rampant in the Steel Valley that he could not keep up, business was booming and not in a good way. I would assume that substance abuse was not far behind these other issues.


I am not blaming the closure of the mills for the heroin crisis, there are plenty of other factors, I get it.  The poor decisions and lack of willpower that lead a person to stick a needle in themselves, the pharmaceutical companies that pushed Oxys, the FDA that let them, and the pill mill doctors all helped to create this perfect storm. But don't you think that if there were more opportunities, more high paying jobs that were easy to get into, and not such a sense of "this is a dead town" among the youth that people would be less likely to start using heroin? 

Just a thought. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works

Girard, O. - Was down here photographing the signs that were left on the building, and wandered over to poke around the old truck scales. I hear this static coming from the area near the phone, where I'm assuming the driver would call into get weighed. The loudspeaker was still active and making noise. This place isn't totally abandoned, I think Vallourec or Trinity Industries still use it, but I was surprised that the speaker was still speaking. The phone was dead though. 

The Republic Rubber Co.

Youngstown, O. - I don't know what it is about this place. It's been photographed to death, it's pretty much empty, and it's not a steelmill so it shouldn't really concern me that much. Still, I've grown to have a connection to it. The first photo I took of my city decaying around me was down here. Was interviewed by a PBS film crew here. Three times. The third trip they brought two Pulitzer Prize winners with them.


I'm not going to go into the whole history of the place, but you can read a detailed write up here.

My dad's buddy/distant relative John-o used to work here. I'd say he's the reason my parents got together. How else would a guy from the Westside of Youngstown meet a girl from the Westside of Warren? My mom said she thought John-o worked at Youngstown Steel Door when she and my dad met, but he was an employee of Republic at one point. John-o's girl worked with my mom making light bulbs at General Electric. After they got transferred from Ohio Lamp in Warren to Austintown Coil, they used to hang out at Tee Mar's on Meridian where she met John-o's friends, my dad included. Both couples are still happily married, and here I am typing this. 

My cousin Chris took me here the first time I went. He had taken some amazing photos next door at Republic Steel's old Truscon plant. One in particular made me want to pick up a camera, a black and white of the locked gate at Truscon. I think we came across the rubber plant on accident. Can't recall, this was damn near 20 years ago. There was a lot more of the plant standing at that time, I've watched it decay over the years. 

The rotten wooden steps that went up the side of a structure (that no longer stands) were decayed when our dumb asses decided to climb up it. Really glad we didn't die. Million dollar view though. Gallery below.


Photos from that first trip in gallery below. Most of this stuff is gone now. I was armed with some little bullshit point and shoot camera, which I really didn't know how to use. The photos are pretty terrible in quality, and I didn't know the first thing about photography, but I feel like I captured the way I saw it. And the way I want you to see it. 

This stack is long gone.

Scrappers hard at work.

Images below are from the mid 2000s maybe? Not sure, but I had a real camera at that point. Caught a different cousin of mine looking over the ruins in the fourth image.

In late 2015 I get a private message on Facebook from a guy that says he is a documentary film maker with PBS. My initial thought was this is some kind of scam, but I check out his page and he seems legit. Says he saw my photos on my old blog, and that Nick Serra told him to contact me. Turns out they were producing a documentary about three US cities that have fallen on hard times: Memphis, Stockton CA., and Youngstown. 


I spent the morning we were supposed to meet up tearing up floors at the Soap Gallery, which was yet to open. Left there sweaty and probably stinking, walked over to this coffee shop downtown and see Nick Serra and Sean Posey sitting outside. Now I didn't know these guys, but we were friends on the internet, and all had similar interests in our photography so I say whats up to them. They were these to meet these PBS guys too I came to find out. Keith and Chris from the Documentary Foundation show up and we skipped the coffee and went straight down Albert St. to film at Republic Rubber. Photos from that trip below. They interviewed us individually, I guess they wanted to touch on people that photograph their deteriorating cities. They seemed interested in the fact that my whole damn family was steelworkers. We went to the Krakusy Hall on the south side from there, which was torn down not long after. I had been there when I was younger and it was an active social club, so I had some stories for them too. After that, we all went down the Golden Dawn, had some schooners of Genesee, talked a little more and parted ways. Photos from that trip below.

I got a call from the Documentary Foundation guys the next day, saying they like the personal connection I have to the city, my passion for it, and they want to film with me again. We went back to the plant and did a longer interview. I didn't really shoot much, but I got to ramble on about Youngstown, which is fine by me. 

Since the day I first went to this place I've been finding shoes in the oddest places.

Climbed the rungs of the interior ladder in the remaining smokestack and shot this from the hip.

It was a couple months later and they call again saying they want to film some more. They also say they are bringing these big time authors with them. I wasn't sure who it was, I just hoped they wouldn't be some stuffy academic types. I was pleasantly surprised, these guys were cool as hell. 

I'm waiting for them at the plant, and Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson show up. I forget how it came up, but one of the first things Michael tells me is that he took the photo of the steelworker holding his kid in the taphouse of the Jeanette furnace at the Brier Hill works. I was woefully ignorant to these guys and their body of work, but I had seen that photo. I replied something like "Holy shit man, that was you?! That is like the most iconic Youngstown photo I ever seen!" 

We spent the next few hours photographing the plant, and talking about the downfall of Youngstown and other steel towns like ours. These guys covered the situation here when the bottom was dropping out, and saw a side of Youngstown that people in my generation never will. And documented it well. Their book Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass was what inspired Bruce Springsteen to write the song Youngstown (The line "now the yard's just scrap and rubble, guess them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do" is a reference to their interiew with Joe Marshall Sr and Jr down the Ohio works after the furnaces came down.). They sneaked the Boss into the Brier Hill works to photograph in front of the Jeanette furnace. When he played the song Youngstown in Youngstown at Stambaugh Auditorium in the 90's they accompanied him there, the lucky SOBs. 

The photos below are courtesy of Dale Maharidge, who posted them on Facebook about thier trip and the visit to Republic. I was telling them I had the Youngstown Sheet & Tube logo tatted on my arm, as well as an image of the Jeanette furnace. We came to the conclusion that Michael probably took the photo I found on the web when they had Springsteen down there. You can see the goosebumps on my arm in Dale's photo below (fig. 3).

Michael S. Williamson and Paul Grilli.

Paul Grilli, Chris Rufo and Keith Ochwat.

Tattoo work by Joe Thomas 

This was easily the most humbling and inspirational experiences of my life. Blood was shed (fig. 1), tales were told, photos were graphed. Once we wrapped up there, I convinced them to go to Nicolinni's and got them to try the greens, which you should do with every out of towner. We talked some more, where I received encouragement to write a book and put my experiences growing up in Youngstown out there. Sit tight for that. I had to leave right after, I was living in Columbus and had to work the next morning. They wound up at the Vista, a little neighborhood bar down the end of my cousins old street. I should have called off and went damn it. Son of a bitch. They interviewed other people there, former steelworkers that were hurt by the shut downs, and my buddy Dub who just happened to be there shooting pool. I really should have stayed, they could've seen that Westside kids order a shot and a beer just like the oldtimer steelworkers before them that drank at that same bar. We just don't have the good paying jobs they used to.

Blood on Brick


Natural light.

Plazma cutter?

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. 

Republic Steel Warren Works - Flyover

Warren, O. 

A sample of the drone footage I commissioned upon hearing of the approved demolition permit for the last blast furnace in the valley. 

I want people to see what an integrated steel mill looked like before they are all scrapped. Unfortunately the basic oxygen furnace side of the mill (where they turned the iron into steel, and then processed it) was already in a scrap heap somewhere at this time. If you look in the background, you see the coke plant, where coal was (and still is) baked into coke. At one time, both plants were part of Republic Steel. They brought raw materials (coal, iron ore, limestone) in one end, and processed steel came out the other. 

Every time I watch this video I think of the "Little Steel Strike" of 1937, when Republic had thousands of scabs that stayed in the mill, who had no food and basic essentials. The decision was made to airdrop supplies to them. They say the strikers tried to shoot down the planes that landed next to the rail yard in this very mill. I don't think anything was ever proven though. Here is an interesting quote from a pilot during the strike, and a link to the Smithsonian article below.

"Pilot Frank Groat, an electrician and part-time pilot hired by Republic, remembered volleys of gunfire as he eased his Waco toward the airstrip. “Every now and then you could hear the bullets whizzing by you as you flew into the mill,” he recalled from his home in Florida. “We never shut off the engines when we came in. We landed, men came out to unload the planes, and we took off. In Niles they used a big net to catch the supplies when we flew over. On those flights we took a second man along, a ‘bomber,’ we called him. He threw the supplies out through the door.”

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 ( ) 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.

Shenango China, Inc.

New Castle, PA - Having lived in New Castle for a time, I drove past this place often on my way back to Youngstown. You can't see much from 224, but behind the trees sits a 100+ year old factory that looks like it was carpet bombed. This place has a fascinating history, and played a huge part in the employment and lives of the people of New Castle. I could post photos of the sections that look like they were shelled, but I'll leave you with some documentation of the things left behind, some company history, and an emotional statement from one of the employees a few months prior to the factory closing for good. See below.. BUT FIRST, this photo of a china coffee cup. Nothing too exciting right? I noticed it was marked "Mayer China, Beaver Falls PA" so I ask myself what is pottery from Beaver Falls doing in New Castle? It dawned on me when I first got a real camera, I took a trip to a china factory in Beaver Falls, which was demolished shortly thereafter. Turns out I was at Mayer China's original factory. The company was bought out by Shenango, and in the 90's they closed Mayer and transferred the production to New Castle. I will post the images from the trip to Beaver Falls in the future. 


The New Castle News of May 8, 1991, printed a passionate editorial from Shenango China employee Patti Ryan that read in part, “As the first wave of permanent layoffs took place April 12, myself included, I’d like to share a few thoughts with my fellow Shenango China employees and people of this community. For all of the “Rah-Rah Shenango China” people who had tremendous pride in their work, it was more than just a job. It was a group of people who grew closer through good and bad times. For those who never felt that sense of pride, it is difficult to put into words. Those of us who have, need no further explanation. Upon visiting Washington, D.C., this past summer, I proudly showed my 8-year-old daughter the Castleton China display in the White House. It was obvious to me that she also understood the pride. It wasn’t necessary to have worked there to felt it. This community will feel the economic impact of this plant closing, along with a sense of loss… Now, the Shenango logo which, to me, always symbolized the pride, is being taken to New York. To put it bluntly, after the corporate rape, our Shenango Indian is being dragged to Syracuse. As consumers, I hope the area people will remember this when making purchases, because the Pfaltzgraff Corp. and its stooges at Syracuse China have done the good and loyal people of this community and Shenango China a great injustice.”


"During the late 30’s, Mr. Smith became convinced that America would soon be in the war. He began building three bisque 70′ tunnel kilns and one 105′ kiln. Delayed steel shipment caused the kilns to be raised under circus tents. Wartime created many difficulties. Young skilled workers went off to war. Many employees went to work in defense industries, which paid higher wages.

Although government contracts made up over 50 percent of all production, critical materials forced substitutes. Due to this hardship, more creative methods of decorating, mixing color and packing were devised. In addition, during the war CIO-USWA won the right to represent the workers. With the end of the World War II, it became apparent that a balanced expansion would have to be achieved. The government ware made during the ware was one fire, plain white ware or with little decoration. In the post-war economy there would by a large demand for dinnerware and overglaze hotelware. A building plan was initiated in 1945 and completed in 1947. The addition contained 150,000 square feet for decoration and a 60,000 square foot building with a 200′ tunnel kiln was built for a new refractories division.

During the war, they also made the ceramic parts for land mines. A group of local businessmen including officers of Shenango formed a company for this express purpose. Later this led to a minority stockholder suit, which occupied the officers and directors for a ten-year period."