We Made Steel

dsc_0036020811

Picture 1 of 8

Photo: Ethan Wallace

Founded in 1867 as the William Butcher Steel Works, Midvale Steel was originally a producer of steel wheels for railroad cars. The company chose Nicetown for its convenience to the existing railway–which brought the anthracite used for steel production–as well as its proximity to the huge Baldwin Locomotive Works. While it was nowhere near the size of US Steel or Bethlehem Steel, Midvale carved out a niche producing high quality steel for specialty markets (it was also one of the first mixed-race shops in the city). They produced armaments, offering the U.S. War Department an alternative to foreign producers.

Later in the 19th century, Midvale was the birthplace of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s time and motion studies, which exerted a profound influence on American industry. What eventually became known as “Taylorism,” or “Scientific Management,” led to greater company control over the shop floor to increase efficiency and productivity. However, it often worked better in theory than in practice.

The Nicetown plant was closed in 1976, and in the 1980s most of the surviving structures were razed. In 2002, SEPTA erected a depot and maintenance facility on the site. Perhaps the hundreds of people who pass through there each day don’t realize that two of the original Midvale buildings still stand in the middle of the property. Decaying and mostly empty, there are still hardhats, spare parts, gloves, and the occasional stray boot as a monument to the men that once worked there.

About the author

Ethan Wallace attended Temple University, where he received a BA in Communications. He has always been interested in the forgotten, unknown, or unseen parts of the city and has spent the last several years photographing Philly’s hidden and vanishing locations. He is also involved with the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa. More of Ethan's photography can be seen HERE

Send a message!



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

 

Recent Posts
Protesting Dilworth Park's Lack Of Protests

Protesting Dilworth Park’s Lack Of Protests

July 22, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Saffron critiques priorities for central civic space, gentrification concerns scuttle Point Breeze mixed-use grocery proposal, and 30th Street Station gets a patriotic light show > more

On Callowhill, Channeling The Ghost Of Old York Road

On Callowhill, Channeling The Ghost Of Old York Road

July 22, 2016  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us down to 4th and Callowhill where an out of place fire plug summons the spirit of Old York Road > more

In The Belly Of Girard Theatre

In The Belly Of Girard Theatre

July 21, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Some dramatic urban exploration in bodega, smaller and targeted Target store opens on Chestnut, and South Broad median get mile-long mural > more

U.S. DOT Workshop Explores Capping And Connectivity On Vine Street

U.S. DOT Workshop Explores Capping And Connectivity On Vine Street

July 20, 2016  |  News

The U.S. Department of Transportation held a two-day community forum on July 16 and 17 exploring design interventions for reimagining Vine Street. Stephen Stofka has the recap > more

State Bill Would Bring Automatic Speed Cameras To Boulevard

State Bill Would Bring Automatic Speed Cameras To Boulevard

July 20, 2016  |  Morning Blend

PA Rep. John Taylor introduces speed enforcement bill for Boulevard, Planning Commission OKs three projects, and crews cleaning up for DNC > more

After 16-Year Hiatus, Mid-century Public Art To Return To Public View

After 16-Year Hiatus, Mid-century Public Art To Return To Public View

July 19, 2016  |  Morning Blend

The “Free Interpretation of Plant Forms” coming to Chestnut Hill, Point Breeze assents to partial residential conversion of Walter Smith School, neighbor wants to save tree from development in Pennsport, and public schools to double as community centers > more