(Left) The Bethlehem Steel Admin Building in 1908. (Right) The Bethlehem Steel Admin Building as of 2007.
One of the most unique characteristics of the demolition industry is the sheer amount of community feedback, and often resistance, that any given demolition project can produce. People work in or grow up seeing a building or structure in a particular location, and that building begins to take a fond place in that person’s, and often an entire community’s, heart. The Bethlehem Steel Administration Building, built in 1902 in Lackawanna, New York, is a relic of a by-gone age both architecturally and economically. An ornately designed Beaux Arts-style building based on the architecture of Leon Battista Alberti’s church of Sant’ Andrea, the Bethlehem Steel building or “Beth” as it is affectionately called by preservation groups, has been slated for demolition to begin on Friday, May 19.
The building housed administrators of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, once America’s second largest steel producer. Founded in 1857 and at one time employing hundreds of thousands across the nation, the company went bankrupt in 2001. Today, the building stands as a testament to the demise of industrial manufacturing in the US. Company headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania were demolished in 2007.
So far, the process to demolish the building is proceeding as planned, with workers attempting to remove asbestos from the interior on Monday in order to prepare it for demolition. Preservation groups are circulating petitions in order to delay or inhibit the demolition process. Roof leaks and floor collapse have caused city officials to deem the site “unsalvageable,” while urban explorers and preservationists maintain this is simply not the case. David Torke, preservationist, told Buffalo News that on his site visit he “saw no evidence that the building faced structural collapse.” Regardless, it seems the industrial relic will be brought down soon. Empire Dismantlement of Grand Island, New York is doing the demolition.