Our steel producing heritage—One of the things that makes Buffalo Buffalo.
We often talk about and remember Bethlehem Steel, and with good reason.
At one point, Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Rte. 5 complex was the world’s largest steel plant. At one point, the plant employed more than 20,000 men.
Just as amazing to think about is that there were nearly as many men working in other steel plants around WNY as well.
The Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue at the Buffalo River in South Buffalo was one of the biggest.
Now the site of the Elon Musk and Panasonic solar panel plant, but in 1950—the Cleveland based Republic Steel was making plans to increase the South Buffalo plant’s production to 900,000 tons of steel per year. Nearly a million tons of steel at Buffalo’s second largest steel plant.
The plant was closed and demolished in the mid 1980s and again, is currently the site for the state-funded RiverBend project.
Just after Labor Day 1975, the Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue was finally starting to hum with the sounds of steel making again, after the plant had shut down in mid-July.
It meant a call back to work for about 500 steelworkers after a six week layoff. Another hundred were expected to be called back in the coming weeks.
New steel orders from the auto industry for the new 1976 model year cars was mostly responsible for the increase in steel production.
The photo below shows the build out of both National Aniline and Republic Steel in 1949. The single drawbridge at the top of the photo went over South Park Avenue. As you can see in the Google Maps image below, most, if not all of the buildings pictured are now gone, but new buildings with new jobs are coming up in their place.
Fifty years ago, the U.S. auto industry was coming off a record year, and the number of autoworkers churning out car parts in Buffalo area plants was also at record levels.
More than 20,000 Western New Yorkers worked in one of four GM/Chevy plants, and just under 5,000 worked for Ford. All plants were at or just under peace-time employment records, and 50 years ago yesterday, The News went plant-by-plant for an update on what’s to come.
Today, in 2015, there are about 20,500 fewer Western New York paychecks coming from Detroit’s big automakers.
There are 1,805 employees at GM’s Tonawanda Engine Plant and 1,587 at the GM Lockport components plant. Ford reports 961 workers at the Woodlawn Stamping Plant, for a 2014 total of about 4,400 employees at sites owned by auto manufacturers in Buffalo.
Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant was at one time the largest in the world and employed 20,000 workers in the manufacture of steel.
It was the same sort of work happening a few miles away on South Park Avenue along the Buffalo River at Republic Steel. Thousands worked at that plant as well, and the hope was that, with changes announced 65 years ago this week, the plant would be able to churn out 900,000 tons of steel each year.
The plant was closed and demolished in the mid 1980s and is currently the site for the state-funded RiverBend project, set to be home to SolarCity.