rust belt

P&LE Gateway Yard

Youngstown, OH. Today is the 50th anniversary of a milestone for the now defunct Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Per the Youngstown Vindicator, "Railroad officials gather at the Gateway Yard in Youngstown for the "humping" of the 5 millionth car (enough to circle the earth). Humping is the act of shoving a line of freight cars over a hill onto multiple tracks, to be divided into a new train. 

The P&LE got it's nickname, The Little Giant, because they moved so much tonnage in relation to the amount of track they controlled. While they did offer passenger service, they primarily moved steel, and the ingredients to make it in its raw form: coal, limestone and iron ore. 

I have photographed what is left of the Gateway Yard many times, but on an occasion such as this anniversary, I wanted to show it in it's prime, not the post industrial wasteland I know it as. Check out the video below from YouTube user Erie1264.

 

 

New Castle Refractories Co.

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New Castle Refractories - New Castle, PA

 

I photographed this 105 year old firebrick factory on Industrial Street about a month before they knocked it down. I didn't know it was slated for demo, just how it worked out. There was quite a bit left behind in the office, some interesting reports and employee data. The production floors were gutted, and the kilns were falling in on themselves. The letter they heartlessly tacked to the message board (fig. 4) to let the employees know their livelihood was gone was still there, next to a calendar that stopped in March 09. I have that letter now, it's right next to the one I liberated from Copperweld Steel, where my grandpa worked. 

 

Coincidentally, the company that shuttered and abandoned this plant also bought the refractories arm of Shenango China, which I photographed the same day. I guess there isn't much of a market for firebrick in a valley that no longer makes steel. These are the ripple effects of Black Monday. Trickle down deindustrialization I guess.

 

http://www.ncnewsonline.com/news/industrial-street-venture-rail-crossings-planned/article_402df67c-e642-11e5-a268-e3365e7eb5ad.html

Republic Steel Warren Works

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Republic Steel Warren Works; Warren, O. My grandpa on my Mom’s side applied here in the 40’s. Part of the hiring process was to weigh you, and they told him to “go home, eat a steak and a bag of potatoes, and try again”. He was skinny like me, so he wound up doing his 30 some years out at Copperweld. They ran me off of the property, so here are some detail shots, and some houses around the mill to show the ripple effect.

They tore down almost all of the BOF side of the mill. It is so strange to me to drive down Pine Ave and be able to see the blast furnace over on Main. Gone are the days of waiting half an hour for a mile long coke train to back into the mill across Pine. The place just looks bombed out. To quote Bruce Springsteen, “My daddy came on the Ohio works when he came home from World War II, now the yards just scrap and rubble.. guess them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”


From the Vindicator, regarding the 1937 Little Steel Strike at the Republic Mills: “On June 20, the day after two strikers were killed at Stop 5 on Poland Avenue, and on several other occasions, Republic Steel ran an ad offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone threatening families of employees of the company or destroying property of employees at its Warren or Niles plants. Even the boys in Warren complained that pickets had bought all the baseball bats, according to a story published in The Vindicator on June 15, 1937. Planes were used to drop food to management and steelworkers who stayed inside the plants. One of the planes crashed while attempting to land on Republic Steel property in Warren, an event caught on camera by Vindicator photographer Lloyd Jones.Whether the plane malfunctioned or was shot down by pickets was long debated, too; but Republic Steel offered a $1,000 reward in a Vindicator ad for information leading to the arrest of anyone shooting at their planes.”

Borts Pool

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Borts Pool - West Side, Youngstown Ohio

 

I learned to swim here. I really hated it. The water was always so cold, and the bottom of the pool hurt my feet. Remember the rusty ass cowboy that was part of the jungle gym? Anyways, I guess you cant expect too much from a public pool financed by a city with a constantly shrinking tax base. Still, I wanted to photograph the place before they tore it down. So I did. R I P 

St. Mary's Byzantine Rite Church

Youngstown, O.

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

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

 

Images below circa 2010 +/-

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

Copyright Paul Grilli 2017

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

Copyright Nicholas Serra. 

Copyright Nicholas Serra. 

Girard, O.

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Girard Ohio - Abandoned Coal Tipple 

I’ve always been fascinated with this building, it was one of the first abandoned industrial areas I photographed. I climbed out on the roof of the little sub building before but my crazy ass cousin went to the top of the building that was blown over in a wind storm. The rotted rusted old iron spiral stairs were too sketchy for me even then but he made it. Actually being under the leaning tower yesterday was pretty sketchy too. While I was down there I was thinking the obvious metaphor for the crumbling American heavy industrial complex would make a good caption, then a train came out of Brier Hill loaded with seamless steel pipe made in Youngstown. There’s something to be said for the contrast.

Weirton Steel Corporation

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Weirton Steel. Weirton WV. These are pretty old, took them while they were tearing down the blooming mill building. I was one of, if not the, last person to photograph the engine that drove the blooming mill (last photo). That TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND HORSEPOWER monster I was standing on was built by the William Tod Company. It was built in the big grey mill building under the Market Street bridge in beautiful Youngstown, Ohio. You know the historic building the downtown gentrifiers want torn down to build a dog park or something. There are 2 Tod engines left in the world, one of them is preserved on Hubbard road if you wanted to see how insanely massive they are. http://www.todengine.org/

US Steel Homestead Works

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Rankin, PA.

 

I got the chance to go to the Carrie blast furnaces, which are pretty much all thats left of US Steel’s Homestead works in Pittsburgh. Same mill my dad hauled his second load of steel out of. I went with the guys from http://acousticarchives.com/ They documented the acoustics in different parts of the mill, and let me do the same with my camera. This video shows the same beat which changes from room to room as if it was recorded in the cast house, in a hot metal rail car or under the highline etc etc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vw2N1tKJGKA pretty damn cool plus historically significant. If the mill wasnt deafeningly loud when it ran thats how the guys voices would have echoed. Glad I got to be a part of this.

Paramount Theatre

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: The projectors at the Paramount theater, which is the big building they are demolishing downtown.  http://www.vindy.com/news/2013/jul/10/curtains-for-paramount-theatre/    I took this the first day I had a real camera, also the first day I ever used one. A dlsr anyways. I have some of the main room and stage but since i didnt know what i was doing they kind of suck. Plus everybody that ever hung out at cedars seems to have taken those same pictures.

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: The projectors at the Paramount theater, which is the big building they are demolishing downtown. http://www.vindy.com/news/2013/jul/10/curtains-for-paramount-theatre/  I took this the first day I had a real camera, also the first day I ever used one. A dlsr anyways. I have some of the main room and stage but since i didnt know what i was doing they kind of suck. Plus everybody that ever hung out at cedars seems to have taken those same pictures.

US Steel Ohio Works

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: The top photo looks like an old dock on a beach somewhere, but its whats left of conveyor belts (middle row) and the flooded basement left over from tearing down US Steel’s Ohio Works (bottom row). I took these so long ago man, the photos from the roof of the mill have to be at least 5 years old. Actually that was the time me and my cousin Matt got caught by the security guard. The guy was hostile at first because people had been mercilessly scrapping the place, plus he didn't believe that somebody wanted to photograph the ruins before they tore it down. I tell him my whole family was steelworkers, i grew up on Hazelwood and could see the smoke stacks from my house etc etc. It turns out he was some big shot at the mill when it was running, and the head of security after it was abandoned. Guy offered us a tour of the place when he found out i knew his granddaughter, but we didn't take him up on it. That's a big regret of mine. they tore everything down like 6 months later. Don't mind me though I'm just thinking out loud.

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Republic Steel Warren Works

Warren, O.  The last blast furnace in the Steel Valley @ RG Steel - WCI - Republic Steel on Main Ave in Warren. Its idle now and they will probably scrap the whole mill before they restart it. My cousin that worked out there said the furnace was on its last leg, and the company that bought it is an industrial scrapping company. Think this was the biggest blast furnace in America when it was built by the Wm Pollock Company of Youngstown, O. End of an era

Warren, O.

The last blast furnace in the Steel Valley @ RG Steel - WCI - Republic Steel on Main Ave in Warren. Its idle now and they will probably scrap the whole mill before they restart it. My cousin that worked out there said the furnace was on its last leg, and the company that bought it is an industrial scrapping company. Think this was the biggest blast furnace in America when it was built by the Wm Pollock Company of Youngstown, O. End of an era

Truscon Steel Company

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Youngstown, O.

Bunch of detail shots from the old Avanti plant on Albert Street they tore down recently. A lot of car parts, signs and the old moulds for the fiberglass car bodies. This was a Republic Steel plant, the Truscon division, where they made steel trusses. The Avanti was a Studebaker they built in the 60s that other companies built when the company folded. The Cafaro’s bought the company, moved the production to the old Republic mill in Youngstown. The whole mill complex is demolished and they make the Avantis in Mexico now.