5/19/2012

Bethlehem Steel North Office Building ReUse - Part I

Darren Cotten graduated with a Masters in Urban Planning last week from the University at Buffalo.   He sent me his thesis project earlier today:  Heritage Tourism: In a Post-Industrial City (PDF).   Darren's work speaks directly to the potential reuse of the Bethlehem Steel North Office building.  Take a few moments to download, read and learn more about the value of this truly unique building that may be days away from the landfill.

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I've been working with Darren for the past few months on the City's near East Side.  He's filed a Homesteading application with the City's Division of Real Estate and intends to make a City-owned residential property, one that was slated for demolition last November, his home.   Darren is also the founder of the University Heights Tool Library.   
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5/18/2012

Bethlehem Steel North Office Demolition - Part III

See today's Buffalo News front page article - Bethlehem Steel site to be scrapped


Buffalo News - Bethlehem Steel site to be scrapped

Please take a moment to read and sign Preservation Buffalo Niagara's online petition
See: Bethlehem Steel North Office Building - Part I, Part II
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Bethlehem Steel North Office Demolition - Part II

On Wednesday evening I met George Richert from WIVB and Steve Bremer, the City of Lackawanna's Code Enforcement Officer on site.  Here's that story and video clip.  Steve handed me a press packet containing numerous items including this email he'd received earlier in the day from Elizabeth Martin, NYS Division of Historic Preservation.   The following is from Steve Bremer's press kit. 


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Money was clearly available in 2009 to make the Bethlehem Steel North Office Building "preservation ready". The former Mayor of Lackawanna was thought to be cooperating in using RESTORE NY funds for this purpose.  Why wasn't this pursued?  Why was the building really condemned and court ordered to be demolished?   The photographic and eye-witness evidence is completely different from the official line - "it's too far gone to save".  Photographers who've been visiting the historic Bethlehem Steel headquarters building for years have formed this FaceBook group.  The photographic evidence suggests a structurally sound building and not one of impending implosion or collapse.  

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On Sunday afternoon all the floors were safe - a few holes on the first floor, second and third that corresponded with a roof leak.  The central staircase had collapsed.  There are two other stair cases that provide access to the entire building.  There was no roof collapse.  Why would a City Code Enforcement Officer and a demolition company misrepresent the actual conditions?  

See: Bethlehem Steel North Office Demolition - Part I
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5/15/2012

Bethlehem Steel North Office Demolition - Part I

The former Bethlehem Steel North Office Building is slated for demolition this week.  Designed by noted New York City architect Lansing C. Holden, this magnificent Beaux Arts building was originally designed for the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1902.  Bethlehem Steel bought the headquarters building and steel works in 1922. Steel production ended in 1982 and coke production in 2002.  This building is located just across the City line on the south side of the Union Ship Canal.   This image depicts the Bethlehem Steel North Office Building - c. 1903.

Bethlehem Steel North Office Building - c 1903

The emergency demolition order was signed by the City of Lackawanna three weeks ago and the emergency demolition of the historic Bethlehem Steel headquarters building will begin later this week, see this notice.  Asbestos remediation has already begun and the diesel powered wreckers are tucked behind the former headquarters building, poised for action.  Demolition begins on Friday.  Here's a current rear view - Bethlehem Steel North Office Building.

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The building has suffered 30 years of neglect.  The decorative copper detail is loose and missing and the slate roof failed years ago.  The modern addition's windows were blown out and most of the interior architectural detail has disappeared.  Here's what the first floor hallway looks like.

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Most of the iconic steel making structures that were built on this site are now gone.  The hand riveted steel smoke stacks and blast furnaces that evoked our industrial supremacy have been cut to pieces.  On the other side of the Bethlehem Steel ship canal the coke ovens are crumbling.   What's left of this site, big steel and an industry that shaped this City and some of the most important structures of the 20th century  - Empire State Building, George Washington Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge?  Mostly scrap.  People who worked at Bethlehem remain as plaintiffs in various work place related injury claims and the Steel Museum now displays artifacts and objects, providing a glimpse into the lives and work of laborers, that were painstakingly salvaged from dumpsters when the steel plant wound to a close in the 80's.  In other places around the world the era of big steel and what it means is still celebrated.  Emscher Landschaft Park in Germany's Ruhr Valley provides one example.  The pairing of a casino and the preservation of five blast furnaces in Bethlehem, PA provides what is perhaps the country's current best practice in preserving the legacy of big steel's industrial heritage.   This image, from the top window, looks South.

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The City of Lackawanna, NY has no preservation ordinance or active preservation organization.     Decisions to help preserve these industrial landmarks have not entered the preservation or public dialog in Buffalo.  Aside from decades of missed opportunities to do something with industrial preservation at this site, what remains?  Patricia Bazelon captured the last days of our Bethlehem Steel, dozens of photographers have followed.  Kendell Anderson's work stands out.   Additional Bethlehem Steel North Office building interior pics are available here and as a slide show.

Update:  A new FaceBook group has formed:  Bethlehem Steel North Office - Photography and Preservation.   Dozens of photographers have been inside this Beaux-Arts style gem and are posting their pictures.  The photographic record contradicts the official City of Lackawanna line: "It's too far gone."  Check out the growing collection of images and commentary that show a structure that's stable.  There is no roof or floor collapse.  The building is not "imploding".  
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5/06/2012

Seeing Buffalo - Week #18

Here's a look back at some of the places I've seen this past week.   If you're not familiar with the locations you can see them on the flickr map next to each photo. In some cases I've provided a description of the place or links to additional information. 

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To see the individual photos and related maps, follow this link or you can view the series as a slide showThe weekly series is archived at Seeing Buffalo.
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