Friday, July 2, 2010

National Tube Entrance Then and Now

Several of my posts this week have all sprouted from my drive along Pearl Avenue last Saturday. So I  might as well end the week just as Pearl Avenue ends, at the gates to the steel mill.

Here is a vintage postcard looking north towards the gates that are well-known to so many Lorainites.

And here is my corresponding photograph from last Saturday.

It's not a perfect recreation of the postcard's camera angle, but it's fairly close – plus I did it from memory!


In its heyday, the National Tube Company was one of the largest steel mills in the world, covering more than 1,440 acres. The mill was like a city with its own dock, power plant, water works, police department and fire department. It once employed about 12,000 people!

The plant has operated under several names, including the National Tube Company of U.S. Steel and the Lorain Cuyahoga Works of U.S. Steel. It became USS/KOBE in 1989.

In August 1999, Republic Technologies acquired the bar business. U.S. Steel continues to operate the seamless pipe portion of the mill as the Lorain Pipe Mills.

Most Lorainites have some connection with the steel plant; if they didn't work there themselves, some family member, friend or neighbor did.

I worked there one summer as a college student. It was a pretty fascinating way to spend the summer.

I had a pretty cushy job – in refrigeration! Which means that I was one of several college kids helping the guys who were troubleshooting, repairing and installing air conditioner units throughout the plant.

The days that we spent removing or installing air conditioners in offices were pretty fun. But when we had to go out into the steel mill and blow the dust out of these huge industrial fans – ugh. You and your 'green clothes' ended up covered with black dust. Climbing around in cranes high above everything, trying to remove a window unit wasn't much fun either.

I learned two things by the end of summer. One: the regular steel workers really earned their pay – and my respect. And two: I did not want to work in a steel mill.

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