Lights out for Bethlehem star? UPDATE and CLARIFICATION
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.