Ten Ways To Turn An Industrial Ghost Town Into An Eclectic Paradigm (#188)

(My Dad worked for many years at the Bethlehem Steel as a chemist.  He was very proud of his work and loved his job.  As a photojournalist this is my tribute to the place that gave my family so much.)

Towering defunct steel stacks, silenced machinery, abandoned buildings.  Surely it all adds up to a veritable wasteland, a hazard, something to be torn down, disposed of, leveled.

Bethlehem Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Abandoned Industrial Buildings at the former Bethlehem Steel

Some Building Remnants Look Like Roman Ruins

Not so the once mighty Bethlehem Steel Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   An impressive rebirth is taking this industrial ghost town from once being the second largest steel manufacturer in the world to a place of robust artistic, historical, commercial and cultural activity.

Visitors Center at Bethlehem Works

It is becoming an eclectic paradigm, showing the nation that what looked like an old decrepit horse worthy of being sent to the proverbial glue factory has a salvageable future.  It is a wondrous turn around and a worthy monument to the thousands of steel workers and families who built an industrial giant, earned their livings, and raised their families under the auspices of mighty steel.

Here’s how the insightful powers that be of the Bethlehem community and surrounding area are reclaiming the newly formed Bethlehem Works:

1) Keeping what remains of the historical industrial buildings intact and safe to view from behind chain link fences with well-paved walkways providing for a pleasant stroll through what was once a dynamic, integral part of our nation’s development as a super power.

Tree Growing On Top Of An Industrial Building At The Steel

2) Providing a visually appealing horizon blending new structures in with the old using brick lined streets with adaptive and appealing street lights.  The effect is at once nostalgic and modernistic.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Friendly Brick-Lined Street Along Founders Way

3) Creating practical yet artistic adaptations for the use of  steel, e.g. flower beds in steel wheel barrows and shaded steel I-beam benches.

Reflections of Steel Stacks in ArtQuest Facade (Steel Wheel Barrow Too)

4) Providing tenant opportunities for an eclectic array of businesses.  Among these are the Channel 39 PBS Television Production Studio,  the SteelStacks, and Bethlehem Commerce.

The Best Of Both Worlds: Present and Past

Framed In Steel

5) Working in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute to develop the National Museum of Industrial History which will be located in the heart of the 1600 acre complex.

6) Establishing SteelStacks, an arts and cultural campus.  Located on the campus are:

Air Products Town Square providing a free venue for local festivals, an al fresco performance stage, and free space for community and non-profit groups.

ArtQuest, a four story contemporary performing arts center

Levitt Pavilion, presenting free concerts from May to September each year and

PNC Plaza which will host the main stage for the area’s largest yearly festival, Musikfest.

Levitt Pavilion: A Place For Outdoor Concerts at Bethlehem Works

7) Developing the land for retail enterprises.  The Sands Casino and Restaurant opened there in 2009.  Still in the construction stages are a hotel and shopping complex.

The Bethlehem Commerce Center, also on the site is involved in industrial truck to rail transportation and vice versa.

8) Allowing for self-guided tours using Heritage Trail signage throughout the area complete with free audio downloads by internet.  Also available are guided tours on foot, van or tour bus.

9) Providing opportunities for all manner of visual media including artists, photographers, historians, and documentary filmmakers.

10) Establishing an information center open daily providing visitors with a starting point for a plethora of activities and events.  Ample parking in several areas of the Bethlehem Works make for a leisurely stroll to any number of central activity areas.

What an awesome experience it is to witness first-hand the loving transformation taking place at Bethlehem Works.  The place formerly known to the many who worked there as “The Steel.”

Bethlehem Steel

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About TinCanTraveler

Born under a wand'rin' star.... living in my Winnebago, traveling the country, explorer/adventurer, photographer, writer, chi master, massage therapist, retired teacher/counselor, work camper. Appreciation for the freedom to do it all. Enjoying life's ultimate lessons of trust, respect, and grace.
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31 Responses to Ten Ways To Turn An Industrial Ghost Town Into An Eclectic Paradigm (#188)

  1. lambskinny says:

    Gorgeous photographs! Reblogging on the VBA blog. Blessings, Carley

  2. lambskinny says:

    Reblogged this on Versatile Blogger Award and commented:
    Absolutely gorgeous photographs! Check out Bethlehem Steel! Carley

  3. Wow, these are some amazing pictures! It looks like a sci-fi writers’ paradise!

  4. Sher says:

    Wow, powerful Anne. I know I was there with you but it looks so different in pictures. Some of your pictures look like sketches. Amazing. A great work of art.

  5. szoutewelle says:

    What an inspiring well done post! Having grown up in Pittsburgh, these images are very nostalgic for me. One of my boyfriends worked in the mills one summer. And when I was about 12, my art teacher took me to draw the steel mills on the Monongehela (I think), so those stacks and Bessemer converters are much loved forms. I love how they have kept them in this plan, so smart to do, they get huge monumental modern sculptures for free!
    Your photos rock too!!

  6. Teresa says:

    Love the jeux apposed photos of old and new, Wonderful history lesson as well. 🙂

    • Ah! Thank you, Teresa! My passion for the subject took me deeper than I realized. Lots of spirit activity there. And, of course, my Dad’s voice inside me. I am looking to return there soon.

  7. Patti Kuche says:

    Wow Annie, what great shots and so evocative of the blood, sweat and tears that came out of such places. It is so good to see such history preserved and put to such good use – almost looks as though one day’s visit might not be enough!

  8. paolo says:

    Annie, this post is amazing. I’m from Italy and my town’s history is very similar to Bethlehem’s. Along with other people from my town named Colleferro, I’m trying to preserve the former industrial area from the speculation and I’d like to publish your post in my blog and translate it in italian. what do you think ?

  9. frizztext says:

    great tribute to your Dad!


  11. Hi TinCanTraveler,

    My name is Marcus Chairez, I am project manager at a presentation design firm in Mountain View, CA called Duarte, Inc. We are working on a presentation for someone speaking at a large event in San Francisco, CA. In this presentation he is telling a story about Bethlehem Steel, and we’d love to use one of your amazing images for a slide. Let us know if you’d have an issue with that.


    • Hi Marcus ~

      I would be honored for my photos of Bethlehem Steel to be used in your presentation.
      You have my permission to use any or all that you choose.
      Thank you so much for asking and for taking the time to write to me.

      Have a glorious day!

      Annie (aka TinCanTraveler)

  12. Thank you so much! These will look beautiful in the presentation. I will show the final product when we finish it.

  13. Rachel says:

    Hi Annie,
    My name is Rachel, and i work for the framing department of a popular Lehigh Valley craft store. I was wondering if we could use one of your beautiful pictures for an in store display to demonstrate the variety of framing options available to our customers? Your pictures beautifully represent the local area. Thank you!

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for visiting my site. Yes, you can use one of my pictures for your display. Could you please send me a photo of the display? I’d appreciate that very much. Thank you! Annie

  14. Rachel says:

    I certainly will! Thank you so much!

  15. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. An inspiring story! Regards Thom.

  16. Thank you so much, Thom. This has always been one of my favorite stories.

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