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Lights out for Bethlehem star? UPDATE and CLARIFICATION

March 14, 2014


CLARIFICATION: City Paper has received confirmation that there was an implosion scheduled for Sunday, which has been postponed due to weather conditions. It was not the L furnace that was to be demolished, but the Basic Oxygen Furnace, which is not the iconic furnace that has the Bethlehem Steel star on it. 

UPDATE: Don Kellner, president of the USW Local 9477 retiree organization, told City Paper that he spoke with an unnamed Hilco representative this morning who assured him that “It ain’t gonna happen.” The official reportedly told Kellner that before the L furnace is imploded, the retirees union will be able to salvage anything they would like to keep. “We are going to be possessor of that star,” Kellner said.

The former employees of Bethlehem Steel have already lost almost everything. When the 123-year-old Sparrows Point steel mill was sold to liquidator Hilco Trading early last year, the union, USW Local 9477, was put into receivership and Hilco began to auction off the equipment. But, according to Don Kellner, president of the USW Local 9477 retiree organization, and Bill Barry, de facto historian of the mill and former chair of the now-defunct labor studies program at Baltimore County Community College, an official at Hilco said that the iconic Bethlehem Steel star, which lit up L Furnace with over 198* lights, would be removed from the furnace. “They committed to giving the star to the community,” Kellner told City Paper.

Just after 5 P.M. on Friday March 14, however, word began to spread that L Furnace, along with the beloved star, might be imploded by Hilco on Sunday, March 16. A source in the community said that Baltimore County Fire Department Station 57, which is across from the furnace, was informed of the implosion. City Paper has attempted to contact Hilco and Station 57 for comment but have received no response.

To drivers along the Key Bridge, the L furnace was a smoke-belching tower of fire that said “Welcome to Dundalk.” If it is imploded, not only will a major East Baltimore landmark come crashing down, so will more than a century of American steelworking.

We will continue to report on the situation and will get as close to the potential implosion as possible.

(Photo by J. M. Giordano)

*City Paper initially reported this number as 500. We regret the error.

  • waldo

    Does anyone know about what time the implosion could take place?

  • Atomicnumber50

    The star should be donated to the Baltimore Museum of Industry!

  • Pat Gavin

    Such bullshit. Can’t they leave anything there as a monument. Do like they did in Bethlehem, Pa and leave the furnaces.

  • Todd Dalgliesh

    This is asinine, what was one of the last remaining Bethlehem Steel Mills is going to be reduce to rubble for what? More housing in Baltimore? There is a massive number of city blocks that would be a lot more productive to tear down, rather than a piece of our industrial history. Oh, but I forgot, that’s what we do here.

  • Pat Gavin

    Usually these things happen real early in the morning. The Melvale Gas Holder went down at 7:30am. The main differences is this is well contained on private property and isn’t near other businesses or residential so there is no real telling when they might do it. I doubt they want people watching either.

  • Pat Gavin

    The land here is so polluted the only thing they can do is put a massive concrete cap over it. This place will probably be just like Westport Power Plant where they can’t wait to get it demolished with big hopes and then it just sits as an empty field for half a decade or more.

  • Chris paul

    The y will never put housing on that land because the ground contamination from 120 years of steelmaking. Remember that before the 1970′s there were no EPA or Hazmat laws. but you’re good governor Mr. Omalley and kevin Camenetz played a major roll in making sure no other steel producers bought that plant. they sent an MDE representative to the auction bidding to warn potential buyers of severe fines for hazardous ground contamination. potentially blocking any sales of plant so that they can have the major deep water port and ocean access for their marine terminal expansion and the land for developers to build industrial parks. Causing 3000 union workers and management employees to lose their jobs and way of life that has existed for One hundred years and generations of families. not to mention the impact on the community vendors and suppliers and their employees could be as many as 10,000 people affected.
    Mr O’Malley and this states officials jump at the chance to protect Maryland horse racing industry because it brings $1 billion of revenue into this state every year. they won’t tell you that Sparrows Point brought 3 billion dollars of revenue into the state every year from suppliers, vendors, sales, employees, trucking, shipping etc. Many small businesses took a major hit if not closing there doors.

  • Chris Upman

    I see no monument to the peach orchards before the plant. To me it’s a ugly monster that is nothing but an environmental nightmare. I’d be glad to see the land redeveloped into a larger deep water port for Maryland.

  • George Lopez

    Make sure you are upwind. When they imploded the Coke Ovens they didn’t even bother to remove the asbestos.

  • George Lopez

    That’s not what happened. SP was a victim of the vulture capitalists (Wilbur Ross, Ira Rennert) and the Russians. It had nothing to do with the Governor or the County Executive. Everybody could see it coming way before either one of them were on the scene.

  • Mikito Ohara

    Does any automotive have a contribution with this?
    Smog Check Services

  • Chris paul

    I’m not saying that the government caused the steel plant business decline since 2000 or the Bethlehem bankruptcy. My point was the Governor and County Executive saw an opportunity to benefit themselves and there wants by blocking the sale of the plant to Steel Producers and not making an attractive offer to keep the business in Maryland or protective the livelihood of the many UNION workers that so adamitley supported their campaign’s.

  • George Lopez

    Actually the government did cause the steel industry decline. It was back when George Bush’s Trade Negotiator and future Presidential candidate eliminated the tariffs on Chinese steel.

  • George Lopez

    I saw there truck pulling out of the place where they keep the explosives on Judge Turnbull’s farm next to Sparks Elementary so it must be any day now.