BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WLVT) - Twenty-five years ago this week, the unthinkable happened.
Bethlehem Steel, the plant that employed thousands and served as a symbol for the Lehigh Valley’s industrial workforce, produced its last cast on Nov. 18, 1995.
“It was just something there all the time,” said Robert Wilt, a lifelong Bethlehem resident who has authored two books about the plant. "You didn't feel like it was ever going to go away. The smoke, the smell, it was all part of living in a small town.”
On Saturday, a steelworkers reunion was held at the National Museum of Industrial History, which sits on land that used to be part of the sprawling plant along the Lehigh River.
Former employees signed a steel beam from Martin Tower that will be placed outside the South Bethlehem Visitors Center.
Retired CEO Curtis “Hank” Barnette was among those who attended the weekend commemoration.
“It was here on this site the Bethlehem Steel Corporation was really founded,” Barnette said. “The genius ironmaster John Fritz laid the foundation for the corporation’s growth from rail production to the premier armor plate and munitions manufacturing.
“The later leadership established a great international corporation of steel plants, of shipyards, ore and coal mining, railroads, ocean vessels and more -- reaching nearly 300,000 employees during the second war.”
Organizers had planned for a bagpiper to mark the actual anniversary Wednesday from the Hoover-Mason Trestle at SteelStacks. Those plans were canceled in part because of concerns over rising coronavirus cases.
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