Bethlehem Steel Mill
By nancy hill
4 Jul 2011
I visited Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the hopes of documenting the steel mills there, an icon of working class America. I had hoped to find a way in to document the rooms, the equipment, the walls, the floors, the ceiling, the light and dark, that surely still carry the spirit of people who spent the better part of their lives working there.
I was stunned to find that this incredible building that grew out of hard earth to the sky now shares a parking lot with a casino. On another side of it an art center is in the works; it already houses a gift shop that sells Bethlehem Steel t-shirts, a number of concession stands, movie theaters, and music venues.
What, I wonder, is the American compulsion to trivialize everything by turning it into some form of theme park, to make everything fun, fun, fun?
I don't live in Bethlehem, or even in PA, so perhaps those who live there feel differently than I did. But I can't help but wonder if working for minimum wage parking cars in a casino or serving snacks in an art center is a fair trade for employment in the steel industry. At least these new buildings provided temporary construction jobs. I can only hope that the art center has permanent collections of the works of local artists.
These images reflect my sentiments of the segmented splendor of a building that once rivaled the palaces of royalty.