Bethlehem supplied steel that built the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. 20,000 employees once occupied the company's sprawling complex, where this Admin Building was active for over 80 years. It is a reminder of a legacy that warrants preservation in the face of brazen neglect.
Taken from a perspective of a former employee, these images capture moments frozen at the building's closure in 1982. Desks piled with papers, chairs situated at the controls, closets filled with supplies: evidence of acquiescent departure, or of hope that the doors would open again?
This historically and architecturally significant structure will soon be razed, despite calls for its restoration. Perhaps through a closer look, we can confront the neglect that betrays its history.
1901 image courtesy the Steel Plant Museum of Western New York
“Kill” can also mean “river,” although the common definition is more apt in the case of Arthur Kill. Dumping toxins into its waters began during the industrial revolution. Runoff from the landfill on its banks poisoned wildlife for decades. But in the past 40 years, environmental legislation and cleanup efforts have made great strides toward rehabilitation.
The Kill’s ugly past endures in these moored ships: usefulness spent, rusted and rotting, their purpose exhausted. But among the distress of the listing shipwrecks, there is beauty as nature reclaims the waste. Oxidation disintegrates steel. Fungus dissolves wood. The past is forgotten.
An overcast day provided a backdrop that was at once bleak and bright. Blue crabs scuttled along, whereas a few decades ago they would have died within hours of being in the water. Even the adjacent landfill is being transformed into a park. Nature, given reprieve, can forgive.