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!



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
Temple To Get Its Boathouse Back By Next Summer

Temple To Get Its Boathouse Back By Next Summer

July 31, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Ground broken on Temple boathouse restoration, distillery to release Philadelphia-inspired gin, apartments beneath Manayunk’s elevated tracks, West Philly trolley tunnel closed for repairs, and the Independence Visitor Center reaches milestone > more

Initial Concepts For A Revamped Headhouse Square Revealed

Initial Concepts For A Revamped Headhouse Square Revealed

July 30, 2015  |  Morning Blend

A gateway planned for the Headhouse Shambles, Feibush still with more fight in him for 20th and Wharton proposal, fishing and the city, and crafting some of the world’s best guitars in Fishtown > more

A Spirited Quest: On The Trail Of Philadelphia's Distilleries

A Spirited Quest: On The Trail Of Philadelphia’s Distilleries

July 30, 2015  |  Behind the Facade

Craft beer may flow in Philadelphia's 21st century veins, but liquor manufacturing has a long, spirited history here. Nic Esposito gives a toast to the city's past, present, and future of distilling > more

Divine Lorraine Gets Go-Ahead From Architecture Committee

Divine Lorraine Gets Go-Ahead From Architecture Committee

July 29, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Blumenfeld gets design approval for Divine Lorraine reuse, reduced NIMBYism in Chestnut Hill, “toughest stretch” yet of Schuylkill River Trail opens, and ZBA stays true to height limits in Fishtown > more

The Devil Is The Detail

The Devil Is The Detail

July 29, 2015  |  Vantage

"Notorious" Devil's Pool? The most beloved place in the Wissahickon may suffer abuse and indignity every summer, but they are no match for its beauty and physiologic significance. Brad Maule defends the natural landmark > more

City’s Oldest Active Fire Hall Designated Historic

City’s Oldest Active Fire Hall Designated Historic

July 28, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Two of John T. Windrim’s buildings being preserved, an urban garden in Chinatown North, and learning another language through a mural > more