Afterwards we all drove to the Nisky Hill Cemetery. A photographer friend had sent me the image below of a view from the cemetery looking across to the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel. Called A Lost World by Walker Evans, it entranced me, making the huge steelworks look mystical and unearthly. I wanted to take that shot for myself, but of I course would be taking it at a different time of year so there would be no foliage. Even so I couldn't rest until it was safe in my camera and the crew gladly helped me to obtain that, bless them. Both Mala and I had been thinking a good long hike would be required to get the shot but we were amazed to drive in and see the vast ruins almost immediately. It was huge. Even looking down on it across the river, it still dominated the valley, standing tall above the town with huge towers and pipes glistening dark orange and shining in the rain and heavy mist. It looked liked an alien building or a construction from a land of giants. A train hauling containers passed almost unseen beneath it, pocket-sized like a model railway. We were all mesmerized by the view and everyone leaped from the cars to take photos. Mala and Carolyn helped with mine.
We then drove to the other side of the river to see the blast furnaces up close. They really were enormous and I was pleased to see how much of the site had been saved from demolition. Old empty buildings were shadowed by the huge structures but these are supposedly being used in the future. One has been turned into a visitor center which showed a superb film on the steel plant but I was really expecting more. There wasn't much machinery or tools or even uniforms on display and the souvenirs were a little sparse. I had hoped to get a travel tumbler but none were available. so I just got a magnet.
A list of its production achievements is here. But change came after WWII when the bombed steel industries in Germany and Japan were rebuilt with newer technology and became more efficient, producing steel more cheaply. Bethlehem Steel's markets diminished and because its workers retired after 30 years on full pensions with benefits, the company found it was paying out more than it made, trying to survive with a smaller workforce yet still supporting those it had employed in its heyday. Read this link on how the end of the company came about.
By 1979, on Bethlehem Steel's 75th anniversary, a wide flange beam of all the steel that had been produced could circle the earth 370 times.
We decided to go to dinner and then return to Bethlehem Steel later as it would be lit up once it was dark. We'd looked on Yelp for restaurants and opted for Thai, but noticed one or two were marked as BYOB; they weren't serving alcohol. We chose one that didn't state this and went to dinner. We'd sat down and were ordering when we discovered that our restaurant was also dry. Oh calamity! The car had been whisked away by a valet, impeding our escape, yet the prospect of an alcohol free meal was unthinkable. Carolyn and Mary valiantly offered to go out and see if they could purchase some badly needed brews, to no avail. We had to eat our meal booze-free. I did scour the menu to see if there were any loaded dishes but nothing.
Back down at Beth Steel, we soon forgot our tribulation as we turned the corner and saw for the first time the blast furnaces lit up. They looked splendid.