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This Is the Final Nail in the Coffin of Bethlehem Steel

Defunct company's old headquarters demolished, and some are happy to see it go
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 19, 2019 8:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – Sixteen thousand tons of Bethlehem Steel collapsed in a matter of seconds Sunday as a demolition crew imploded Martin Tower, the defunct steelmaker's former headquarters. Crowds gathered to watch the demolition of the Pennsylvania area's tallest building, a 21-story monolith that opened at the height of Bethlehem Steel's power but had stood vacant for a dozen years after America's second-largest steelmaker went out of business. Explosives took out Martin Tower's steel supports and in 16 seconds crumpled the 47-year-old building, which had earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places despite its relatively young age, reports the AP. Tyler Kent, whose father worked at Bethlehem Steel for 46 years, said his "heart stopped" as he watched the building fall. "I didn't think it was going to affect me emotionally like it did, but I just can't imagine it's gone. It's so sad."

Martin Tower's current owners spent years trying to redevelop the 332-foot structure, but concluded it made more sense to knock it down and start over. Bethlehem Steel's product is found in the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and many other landmarks. The company moved into its headquarters in 1972, shortly before the US steel industry plunged into a recession. Bethlehem Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001 and closed for good two years later. To some, the tower—built in a cruciform shape to maximize the number of corner offices—symbolized corporate excess. "This is where the money went that the workers never got," said Fran Maiatico, whose father worked there. Leonard Gentilcore, 88, a retired draftsman, said he associated the building with out-of-touch executives who drove Bethlehem Steel into the ground. But son Mike Gentilcore, a former researcher, said "it breaks my heart. It's the end of an era and I'm going to miss seeing it there."

(Read more Bethlehem, Pa. stories.)

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