They Need To Find A Way To Keep The “Star of Bethlehem” Shining At The Old Sparrows Point Steel Mill

Featured, News — November 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm by

Every holiday season, while driving along 695, you could see it blazing away in the South-Eastern Baltimore sky- the “Star of Bethlehem”.  The star sat atop L Furnace, which is the massive blast furnace that dominates the landscape of the old Sparrow’s Point Steel Mill. L Furnace was a beast in its day. Built in 1978 and operational until 2012, L Furnace was capable of handling 9,000 tons of metal a day.  That’s a lot of blast furnacing, folks.  But unfortunately, even the massive capabilities of L-Furnace wasn’t enough to keep the Steel Mill open and the old Point was shut down in 2012 and eventually sold to land developers.

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L-Furnace is now set to be imploded this December to make way for an industrial park and other new developments.  Even though the Mill, and the furnace, haven’t run in a few years, seeing L Furnace go will be emotional for a lot of folks, for a lot of reasons.  The L furnace operated for 34 years and the Bethlehem Still Mill (The Mill had various owners over its final years of operation, but it will always be Bethlehem Steel to most Baltimorons.) produced steel for this great nation for more than 100 years.  That steel mill on the Point literally helped win world wars and it helped build a nation; and those facts were a large source of pride for a lot of people in this community.  A community that has always had a blue-collar backbone. Growing up in Baltimore meant that you were related to, or were friends, with someone who worked down the Point.  Bethlehem Steel has been woven into the fabric of Baltimore for a long time. Beth Steel was Baltimore, and Baltimore was Beth Steel. It was such a force here, such a behemoth of industry and life, that back when I was a kid, the thought of Bethlehem Steel ever shutting down seemed like some fantastic impossibility.

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But the impossible has happened and the Mill is now in the process of being torn down. L Furnace is simply the next box to be checked on the demolition man’s list. But for me, the L Furnace being imploded is more than just another TNT target, it’s another reminder of how much has changed.  The City of Baltimore has changed, the nation’s and the world’s economy has changed, and how a lot of folks make a living and work has changed.  A lot of the change has been for the better and some of it has been for the worse, but either way, there’s no stopping it.  Change will happen.  And even mammoth steel mills that build nations go dark.

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But that doesn’t mean we can’t honor and remember the old warhorse that was Beth Steel. Rumor has it, the Star of Bethlehem has been taken off of L Furnace and I do know there is a movement to save the Star and keep it shining over the Point for future holiday seasons.  The current owner of the property, Hilco, allowed the Star to be lit over the dark Steel Mill last winter, but the impending demolition of the L Furnace made that impossible this year.  That certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t save the removed star for later winter nights.  That star is an icon on its own and to incorporate it into the new development would show a great sense of history and great awareness for what once stood on those grounds.  The star would represent the holidays, for sure, but it could also represent the pride of the working man and woman.  The pride that comes from the blood, sweat, and tears of the hard-working folks who built a city and a nation.

A drive just east of the Key Bridge on 695 won’t ever be the same.  The Mill will soon be completely gone and the iconic L Furnace will be gone too. But the “Star of Bethlehem Steel” can and should stay. It should shine bright every holiday season and be incorporated into the new development plans of Sparrows Point, as a reminder to the incredible work that went on down the Point for over 100 years.  They need to keep this Baltimore Star shining.

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cover  pic: citypaper

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