Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Up Close and Personal with the Blast Furnaces

Written by Lynn Collins Cunningham, VP, Bethlehem Initiatives

Okay. I KNOW that there are a ton of you Bethlehem-ites out there that have contemplated it. There are some that have attempted it….and a few that have even succeeded. As illegal as it is, you've wanted to climb up on the rusted tracks that run the length of the blast furnaces and get a closer look at those massive structures that have been an integral part of our heritage, and for years, our identity. Those tracks actually have a name: The Hoover Mason Trestle.

The Hoover Mason Trestle, named after the two engineers that designed it back in the early 1900’s, was the linchpin to getting the raw materials to the blast furnaces. Before the HMT, the raw iron ore, limestone and coke were physically transferred in vessels to the Stock House where they were stored as needed. To expedite the travel of these raw materials from the Ore Yard to the furnaces, Hoover and Mason were consulted. The result was the trestle and its ability to efficiently accelerate the movement of these resources, transformed Bethlehem Steel into the second largest steel company in the world.

And although it is a little thrilling to do something you’re not supposed to do, (I have a friend who, pre-redevelopment era -  climbed up onto the blast furnaces with a camera and took a shot… posing naked) come late summer of 2014, it will no longer be forbidden to get that closer look. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Bethlehem and Mayor John Callahan announced in April that the Hoover Mason Trestle will now move people – not product – throughout the SteelStacks/ Beth Works area. From the Sands Casino Resort (the former Ore Yard site) to the Visitor Center (the former Stock House), visitors, tourists, and residents alike will be able to walk the length and get a first-hand look at the furnaces and structures that  churned out iron and steel from the American Civil War to 1995.

This $10.1 million project will be based on the plans and designs of Wallace Roberts and Todd, LLC, who were the master planners for the SteelStacks Campus and the designers of the SteelStacks’ Levitt Pavilion. To ensure that this undertaking will assist with the illumination of our history there was collaborative input from a group of representatives from various Bethlehem Historical organizations. The construction of the trestle will be managed by Boyle Construction Inc., who built the Levitt Pavilion.

The Sands Casino Resort, PBS Channel 39, the ArtsQuest Center, The Stock House Visitor Center all will be connected by the Hoover Mason Trestle giving pedestrians access that previously, only former steelworkers (and a few thrill seeking trespassers) had before: an up close and personal experience with the iconic structures that helped “build America.”                            

By Lynn Collins Cunningham

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