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

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. 

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.

Memorial Day Massacre

Chicago, IL. - Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Memorial Day Massacre, the day that the Chicago Police Department killed 10 men attempting to picket the gates of Republic Steel's south Chicago plant. 

This was part of the Little Steel Strike, the effort of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee to organize the mills of Republic Steel, Youngstown Sheet and Tube and Inland Steel among others. Basically the major steel producers that were smaller than US Steel, who had recently signed a contract with the S.W.O.C.. Although this particular slaughter happened in Chicago, this same strike was effecting Youngstown, Warren, and Niles Ohio as well as other cities in the state. See the headline from the Youngstown Vindicator below, which was published on that same Memorial Day. I will talk more about the use of aircraft in the Youngstown area during this strike in a coming post, but you should know that this was war, on the ground, in the air, and also through the use of propaganda. 

5/30/1937

There were a total of 8 strikers permitted in front of Republic's main gate. On Memorial Day there was a rally near by the mill with hundreds of steel workers and others in attendance. A decision was made to march on the gates at Republic, and once they arrived all hell broke loose. 

There are some very different theories for why this slaughter took place. Some say there were communist agitators placed in these mills to incite the strike/violence, some say the companies and police were out to crush the strike with no concern for the spilled blood of a few steelworkers. I am reading the autobiography of the man who was the head of Republic at that time for perspective, but it seems very pro company. Almost biased hah. At the same time, so do the socialist websites that tell the story from the other side. I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Chicago Tribune - 1937

Either way, this event happened. 10 men killed in the street. Kids were shot. Men were shot in the back. No cops were shot. Some policemen were injured, I'll give them that, but shit. Shoot to kill! This wasn't even 100 years ago! 

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll stop talking now. Scroll past the images for a two part newsreel from the time that shows some of the riot. Please watch the video. The actual start of the shooting is blatantly missing. They say Paramount Pictures had a cameraman there that filmed the police opening fire with no warning, but the video was suppressed because it was may have caused widespread rioting. Or support for the union. Who knows. 

Click the following links for Part 1 and Part 2 of the newsreel footage regarding the massacre. 

Youngstown Car Manufacturing Co.

Youngstown, O. - This is a company you don't hear much about. Youngstown Car Mfg Co. manufactured the carts shown in this advertisement. With the amount of money run of the mill industrial carts go for today you would be sitting on a fortune if you had one of these to sell. I'd buy it. 

Below is a photo of their plant on Wilson Avenue, with Republic Steel's number 2, 3, and 4 blast furnaces in the background. This was part of the William Pollock Co. collection on Ohio Memory, so I assume they built the furnaces. The Youngstown Car Manufacturing Co. plant still stands today, and is now used by Industrial Mill Maintenance. 

I was working for an HVAC company in the early 2000s, and was on the roof of the church that sits across the street. I forget the name of the church but it was between Gladstone and Jackson Street . The maintenance man was telling me he went to school there as a kid, and remembered not being able to see across to Poland Ave. because of all the smoke from Republic. I remember trying to imagine what that scene looked like. Imagine no more, this would have been the exact same view I saw 80 years later when the furnaces were gone. 

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. 

Republic Steel Corp.

Youngstown, O. - Dated 1941, this photo shows the men that worked the "skull cracker" yard at Republic Steel. Skull cracking was the process of dropping essentially a wrecking ball on steel that had solidified in a ladle, and needed to be reclaimed. 

Photo courtesy of Ohio Memory Collection

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. 

Sculpture

Industrial themed sculptures in the Steel Valley.

I really wish I had a photo of the sculpture of the two guys in hardhats carrying a length of pipe that stood in front of what is now the LB Foster plant on Salt Springs in Mineral Ridge. It is gone now, why they tore it out is beyond me. The sculpture used to scare the hell out of me as a kid as we drove from Youngstown to my grandparents in Warren. I remember thinking they were going to throw the pipe into the car as we drove by. We would drive past there to Main Avenue, under the three ancient stone railroad trestles (gotta beep under each one!) and then ride up Main between the hot and cold ends of the former Republic Steel Warren Works, which was running at that time. The sights/sounds/smells you would experience on that ride were fascinating for a little kid. To an adult too if were being honest. 

 

 

Warren, O. - Steelworker sculpted from steel in front of the United Steel Workers Local 1375 union hall. I don't know much about this one except it stands in front of the local that represented the former Republic Steel Warren Works. The sculpture has a a strange texture to it, almost like it is rusting away.

Detail of the sculpture's feet. He is standing on scattered expanded metal, which is all that remains of portions of the mill where the men who were represented by this local used to work.

Niles, O. - "STEELWORKER"

The 20' sculpture of a steelworker that stands in front of Niles Iron and Metal, which is a scrapyard. This piece was crafted by Sidney Rackoff.

Youngstown, O. "THE STEEL MAKERS" 

This sculpture of two steelworkers stands in front of the Youngstown Historical Center of Labor and Industry. The men stand in front of what I am told is an actual portion of an Open Hearth furnace from US Steel's Ohio Works. The men depicted were part of the USWA Local 1462, which may have been a Youngstown Sheet and Tube local, but I have not found confirmation on that. Inscription text below.

*UPDATE* Per Rick Rowlands, of www.todengine.org, "The sculpture in front of the YHCIL is made of components from Brier Hill's open hearth and the two workers are actual YS&T steelworkers. An interesting note. Originally both had bronzed hard hats. A few years ago someone pried one of the bronze hardhats off, so I grabbed a real hardhat out of my collection and glued it on the guy's head."

THE STEEL MAKERS (1980)
By George Segal (1924 - 2000)
By United Steelworkers of America, District 1
Model Steelworkers:
Peter Kolby, Jr. (right) - Wayman Paramore (left)
Members of Local 1462

Youngstown, O. - A relief detailing an industrial scene on the wall of Saint Anthony's Church, in Brier Hill. Saint Joe is helping a steelworker sample hot metal, to the left of a detail of a Blast Furnace and what looks like Open Hearths. This church, which still has a congregation of mostly Italians, was located right up the hill from the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Brier Hill works. 

Youngstown, O. - The Peanut Bridge, as it is locally known. They say the Ironworkers that built this bridge welded a steel sculpture of Mr. Peanut up on the struts. Took this some years ago when the bridge was green and rusty. They have since refinished the bridge, and painted Mr. Peanut in his familiar yellow and black. 

*Updated 12/13/2016*

Youngstown, O. - Almost forgot this guy, out front of Youngstown Bolt. I'm sure it is a sculpture of a dapper screw, but it looks like a piece of pizza to me. Maybe that's my Youngstown talking. This place had an awesome shop dog. I would go there and pick up materials when I was a helper/gopher for a mechanical contractor in Youngstown, and the dog would just be lounging by the counter. I think all shops like this should have a chill dog that lays around in the shop all day.

*Updated 3/11/2017*

New Castle, PA - Sculpture of a ladle pouring metal in front of the former Pennsylvania Engineering Corporation (PECor) on Moravia Street in south New Castle. I took this photo a decade ago. The sculpture is gone, the rollers behind it are gone, the entire plant is gone.  This company built hot metal carrying equipment: ladles, hot metal rail cars, the Bessemer converter that still stands at Station Square in Pittsburgh. 

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.”


 http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/oldies-amp-oddities-the-little-steel-strike-airlift-41977502/?no-ist=&page=1

Republic Steel Warren Works

Warren, O. - I spent Labor Day in a freshly shuttered steel mill where 1,400 people labored until a month ago.

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