In May of 2012, it was discovered that a historic building in the city of Lackawanna, NY was slated for demolition. This building is the Bethlehem Steel Administration Building.
The building is significant to Lackawanna and its surrounding region for many reasons, including:
1. The architecture is magnificent. It was designed in 1901 by Lancing Holden. It is a Beaux Arts beauty with a detailed copper roof, detailed pediments, terra-cotta pilasters, and unique Corinthian dormers. More images and definitions of architectural details are on Buffalo as an Architectural Museum.
2. Its history is what put Lackawanna on the map, as it was initially part of a neighboring town, West Seneca. The steel company is of the most powerful symbols in the United State’s industrial manufacturing history. It became the leading supplier of steel in the construction industry as it was responsible for developing parts for the use of skyscrapers during their inception.
In addition, the steel company was a major supplier to the Navy and Army during the World Wars. It also made parts for nuclear reactors for the Federal Government and by the 1950s, it began manufacturing 23 million tons of steel per year. The steel company employed a significant amount of people in Western New York and turned Lackawanna into a boom town.
Watch the PBS documentary, “Bethlehem Steel: The People who Built America.”
3. The location is essential. The building is adjacent to the city of Buffalo and is conveniently located on the waterfront just steps away from the city line. As the city of Buffalo continues its waterfront revitalization projects, this building will absolutely have the potential to become an attraction or a focal point for Western New York.
Why is the Mayor doing everything he can to demolish his own city’s heritage?
The Mayor of Lackawanna, Geoffrey Szymanki, has has been quoted saying, ”I am tired of hearing about our glorious past. I think preservation societies are only trying to preserve what once was, as opposed to moving our region in a positive direction.” In effect he has seen to it that the building owners demolish the building, claiming that it is ready to implode any minute; however, the State Historic Preservation Office did a walk through/analysis of the structure and has deemed it structurally sound. The Mayor needs to understand the economic benefits of historic preservation. Preserving this building would create jobs, increase property values, conserve resources, support small business, and attract visitors, all of which Lackawanna would benefit from.
What we are doing to save this building
The Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG), Hank Pirowski (Lackawanna’s Common Council President), the Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, and many other organizations and local preservationists have been advocating tirelessly to save this beauty from the demolition machine. In May, we held a three-day vigil just in case the demolition started. That event received wide-spread press and led to our participation in a Lackawanna Common Council meeting.
We identified improper usage of grant money intended for preservation that the City of Lackawanna was planning to use for demolition of the Administration building. That funding has been retracted. Using that ammunition, we convinced the courts to get a stay of demolition.
Within the last few months, we have been working towards getting the iconic building on the National Register of Historic Places, held public hearings, are completing adaptive reuse studies, and working with the owners to propose the reuse of the building.
Today, we held a celebratory event called I’m Steel Standing and invited the regional community to experience the building in a new way; we organized historical tours, recorded interviews with former employees, spoke to neighbors and the press, and much more. Almost all of the major news stations came to the event and covered it on their evening news. From that press, we have nearly 1,000 hits on a website created just for the event! We will leverage the popularity of this event the next time we meet with representatives of the City of Lackawanna.
How you can help!
We ask you to help us preserve this building for its urban fabric and future. Please sign this petition, please tell Mayor Szymanzki more of your thoughts, and email us to get more information for yourselves and to share with your preservation networks.
More information; ImSteelStanding.org
Histpres worked with the I’m Steel Standing organizers to get a website up in a matter of days to be a hub of information spanning our collective efforts starting in May. On ImSteelStaning.org, you will find images of today’s and past rallys, photos of architectural details; history of our campaign, of the building, of Bethlehem Steel and the City of Lackawanna; existing reuse plans; a comprehensive list of news articles and local news broadcasts.
As a child, Danielle Huber liked to explore and be adventurous. Those attributes have followed her into adulthood. Every opportunity she gets, she is engaged in what her beloved city has to offer. Her passion is history and more specifically, Buffalo History. She is currently finishing her Masters in Education at Buffalo State College. Follow Danielle on her blog, Dedicated2Buffalo.com.