This club had a nice long stage in the back of the club.
Because it was a two-day gig, we had the rare pleasure of setting up our gear and leaving it for the second night’s show.
We got a pretty big scare when on Saturday morning we got a call from the bar owner who told us that his bar was broken into during the night. Someone pried open the screen door in the back of the club.
We thought the worst had happened but when we got there, none of our equipment was touched >whew<.
Ah, yes – Lackawanna. Home of Bethlehem Steel, a major economic force in Buffalo for decades, and a crippling economic catastrophe when the plant closed. On the flipside, it was an environmental monstrosity, and probably could be a hellhole to work in at times, but it provided livelihood for a lot of families, and all the businesses that supported them.
I still remember the signature smell of the air as I got off the Skyway and headed into Lackawanna…
In 1902, the Lackawanna Steel Company which was originally founded in Scranton P.A., moved operations to Lackawanna N.Y. – just south of the city of Buffalo. A large steel mill was constructed on the shore of Lake Erie and workers from Scranton were moved to continue thier jobs. The plant became the leading manufacturer of sheet piling and steel rails.
In 1922, the plant was bought by Bethlehem Steel (their main plant being in Bethlehem P.A.) for $60 million, and dumped $40 million into repairing the aging facility to expand production. Buffalo had a significant automobile industry, and linked to the booming city of Detroit through the Great Lakes, their interest in the plant was well-founded. By World War II, the Bethlehem Lackawanna Plant was the largest steel making operation in the world, with 20,000 workers producing steel plate for ships, tanks, and other military structures. The height of production was in 1973, with 40 million tons of raw and finished steel coming from the Bethlehem Steel Company.
The demand for steel started to lessen in the 1970s, and the plant began making cutbacks in production and workforce in 1977. Although record sales of $7.3 billion were reached in 1981, the company reported a $1.5 billion loss the next year. Due to this dwindling interest in steel, the rise of foreign competition, and severe restructuring of the industry, the Lackawanna plant ceased most of its operations in 1983.
Efforts to reclaim the grounds of the former plant have been tried but met with much resistance, due to the contaminants left behind in the soil, however wind turbines were successfully erected along the lakefront in 2007. The company’s old 1901 administration building (known as the North Office), a fine specimen of Beaux Arts architecture, has been left neglected for some time, and a controversial demolition has begun in 2012.
A small museum dedicated to the plant can be found at the Lackawanna Public Library (560 Ridge Road Lackawanna, NY 14218). (source: http://opacity.us/site234_bethlehem_steel_lackawanna_plant.htm)