Friday, February 12, 2016

US Steel: Lost/South Works

(Satellite, about the only thing redeveloped so far is US-41 and the Steelworkers Park)

If you have a Facebook account, your time would be better spent reading this description rather than these notes.


Allen Weber wins the resolution contest. Search for his name on a small image below for the context of his comment.
This photo is about 1975, old side blast fces. gone.. New rod mill (blue bld. on top of photo, across north slip).
James Torgeson posted
The USS South Works. Note the two salties at the cargo pier on the Calumet River.
Kenneth Treharn: When I worked at G.A.T.X. they bought a lot of heavy plate steel from them.
James Torgeson: Kenneth Treharn Yep, heavy flats and structurals were their bread and butter.
Michael Maitland: Great shot, hard to believe all gone. The field in the foreground also had a fully integrated steel mill at one time - Iroquois Works of YST I believe.
James Torgeson: Michael Maitland Yes, the Iroquois plant closed around 1960.
Raymond Boothe posted
Aerial view of the USS South Chicago Works (Dr. Raymond Boothe collection).

Rod Sellers commented on a Wisconsin Steel post
Here is a site map of U. S. Steel South Works. It shows Open Hearth #4.

Before US Steel was created in 1901, the plant north of the river was Illinois Steel.
C. William Brubaker/UIC Digital Collections, 1969, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Looking northeast along the Calumet River near its mouth at Lake Michigan.
The local pioneer in this field [producing rails] was Eber B. Ward, who used part of a fortune made in the Great Lakes shipping business to build Chicago's first rail-rolling mill in 1857. Located on the North Branch of the Chicago River, Ward's plant was known as the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company. By 1860, when it employed about 200 men, it already ranked as one of the city's biggest enterprises; a decade later, it had expanded into a very large facility with 1,000 workers. In 1865, this mill experimented with rails made out of Bessemer steel ingots—the first such rails produced in the United States. At the beginning of the 1880s, Ward's company opened a sister mill at the mouth of the Calumet River on Chicago's South Side—the famous South Works. (ChicagoHistory)
C. William Brubaker/UIC Digital Collections, 1969, cropped, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Looking northeast from Lake Michigan at East 95th Street.
Note that automobile freight cars were still uncovered in 1969.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP, north of slip
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP, north of river


The South Works began when North Chicago Rolling Mill Co. bought 73 acres of land "with 1,500 feet of frontage on the Calumet River and 2,500 feet on Lake Michigan and broke ground for what would become the first integrated rail mill in the world." Over the decades it expanded the area by dumping refuge from both their north and south works until they reached 576 acres and by 1933 the land was filled with buildings. "By the early 1980s, plant closure was certain after a major planned expansion was cancelled. Within 22 years starting in 1970, the Works changed from a major steel operation with a rated annual steel capacity of over seven million tons and more than 10,000 employees to a plant with a capacity of only 44,000 tons and 690 employees at its closing in April 1992. Massive demolitions were well underway." 1983 and 1994 aerial views of the site (DavidSchalliol) I've seen numbers as high as 20,000 employees at this works.

I remember reading an article in the Tribune decades ago about a new rail manufacturing plant planned for the South Works. I assume that was the "major planned expansion" referred to above. Reading "Concessions at South Works: What Price a Rail Mill?" made me appreciate the significance of the 5 production workers helping the 3 maintenance workers as emphasized in a video of the hot roll mill in Riverdale, IL. Also note that a large steel facility employees just 8 people.

Forgotten Chicago has some more "then" and "now" pictures.

Update: 1920s aerial view of the railroad yards with the steel plants in the background. Pictures of EJ&E Bridge 710 also have views on the South Works on the left side.


Michael Siola shared

Frank Smitty Schmidt posted
US Steel South Works in 1920
Bob Lalich I believe this photo was taken prior to WWI. The south slip seen here was expanded in 1917.
Frank Smitty Schmidt Title: U. S. Steel Railroad Yards at South Works c1920s
Contributing Institution: Pullman State Historic Site
Collection Name: Industrial Heritage Archives - Southeast Chicago Historical Society

Description: Aerial view of South Works in the late 1920s looking north from southeast corner of mill. Image shows railroad cars, life saving station at lower right, factory buildings in background, residences and neighborhood street at left.
Kevin Piper posted four photos with the comment:
We all talk about the people, stores, restaurants, and entertainment that is now part of Chicagoland history, but an enormous loss is the heavy industry that disappeared during the last 40-50 years. Chicago's mighty industrial complex shaped its blue-collar neighborhoods, and was the literal pulse of the city in so many ways. As a railroader, I was once a very small part of that industry.
South Works is an area in South Chicago near the mouth of the Calumet River, that was previously home to a now-closed and vacant big US Steel manufacturing plant. The area will always be called "South Works" because that was the name of the now-abandoned steel plant. South was a structural mill, and much of the steel used to build the downtown area came from there.
At its peak, the steel mill employed some 20,000 people, which supported the development of a residential and business community centered on the mill. The mill property covered a total of over 600 acres, part of which had been reclaimed from Lake Michigan with fill dumped into the water. By the 1970's, the facility began downsizing due to a shifting market for steel, and by the end of the decade the number of workers at the plant had dropped to 10,000. The mill continued to decline, and on 1-9-92, it was announced that the facility was to close. On 4-10-92, the plant did permanently shut down with fewer than 700 people employed at the time of its closing.
Since the steel mill shut down, much has been proposed, but the area has stood mostly vacant, with only a single brick building and the remains of a ship dock still standing.
Kevin Piper posted
Kevin Piper https://www.seattletimes.com/.../how-the-american-steel.../
Albert Wszolek The J still ran transfer there into the 2000 s I retired in 2003.
Tighe Reardon I worked on the J / switchman (South Works) 73-78 mostly extra board; while going to Chicago State U. It was apparent then that mill was in trouble with competition from Japan and Germany dumping steel in the US.

Mike Delaney posted four images:
Aaron Terres: So there was blast furnaces in two locations?
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Allen Weber answered Aaron's question
Yep, "the old side" 1-4&E. Then the "new side' 6-12..

Allen Weber commented on his comment
This photo is about 1975, old side blast fces. gone.. New rod mill (blue bld. on top of photo, across north slip).

Kevin Piper posted
Jesse Williams To bring context and a reason why.https://www.seattletimes.com/.../how-the-american-steel.../
Bill Beck supervisors could not leave until their replacement arrived. One guy was waiting for his replacement. Call his house, had left hours ago. Replacement was finally located, at the mill, in his car, in a sinkhole just big enough to fit the car, but he couldn't escape.
John Luther In the pic is a C 2 type ocean freighter, like the type used by U.S. Lines. American Scout was one of their well known ships.
Larry Loven I worked one summer at Rheem water heaters on around 7100 block of south Kedzie.
Timothy Gavin Used to drive past there on the regular. Rheem on one end of the bridge, Nabisco on the other. Strange combination of smells.
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Rod Sellers posted
South Works railyard entering from EJ&E Bridge across the Calumet River. Road at left is The Strand (later Avenue O). Lifesaving station at lower right, ore boat in South Slip, 89th Street pedestrian bridge across rail yards in distance.

Kevin Piper posted
EJ&E was an early slug user on blast furnace highline jobs. NW2 441 and T-3 have a cut of coke hoppers at the long gone USS South Works in Chicago on 1-25-80.
Kevin Piper posted
This is a view of the USS South Works in Chicago. That's a green & orange EJ&E SW1 switching cars in the foreground. PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWN
Kevin Piper posted
This is an excellent view of the USS South Works main blast furnace area, ore bins, high-line, and powerhouse (upper left.) The view looks southeast towards Indiana. Some of the blast furnaces pictured here were operational until the early 1980's. EJ&E RY PHOTO
Dennis DeBruler Two big blast furnaces, two smaller ones, and maybe a fifth one.
(Housekeeping: if you are here because you clicked a link, then you need to click Steelworkers Park.)

Kevin Piper posted two photos with the comment:
EJ&E T-3 and 441 are about to shove coke hoppers up the blast furnace high-line on 1-25-80. If you look closely, in the distance is the 86th Street entrance to the mill. There was a bar right outside the gate where EJ&E switch crews would head for "beans." Old Style on tap flowed freely there all day. (441) KEVIN PIPER PHOTO/(Gate) EJ&E RY PHOTO
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Kevin Piper posted
This is an interesting view of the South Chicago mill taken in February 1941, on the eve of World War II. This is looking east at 90th & Avenue O. The blast furnaces in the distance were later removed after installation of the electric furnace. Note the string of EJ&E roofless boxcar coke cars just beyond the fence. As a child, my grandfather who lived in this neighborhood, would climb under the fence and steal coal here for his family.
Kevin posted again
Steve Malachinski Those are the old side blast furnaces along the south dock. only 3 were in operation prior to 1980 #3 #5 and E being small furnaces they only put out maybe two ladles of iron per heat.
Bob Lalich The photographer was Charles Cushman. He took extensive photos of steel mills in the Calumet region, among other subjects. Fortunately his collection has been preserved for those of us interested in history. http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/cushman/index.jsp
Paul Jevert shared
David Jansson: Great story in a Trains magazine about a switch engine crew taking on a load of coke to see how well it burned. It burned REALLY GOOD and the Roundhouse Foreman blew his top when he saw the damage done to the firebox and grates. Damn near destroyed the engine!

A couple of decades later according to the cars.
Tony Margis posted
[His comment was wrong.]
Bryan Howell This is looking east on 90th St at South Works. Those blast furnaces are along the south slip.

duniayote

Kevin Piper posted
I returned to the USS South Works by accident in 1987 as a Chicago Rail Link employee. We interchanged cars with EJ&E in the mill by way of South Chicago Junction on Chicago Short Line and BRC trackage rights. By then the mill was still intact, but very devoid of human beings inside. I always had an eerie feeling going in there. I remembered the tracks from my EJ&E days, and had some fun once by taking our CRL locomotive "around the horn" to the north end by the lake and along 79th Street then back south along Brandon Avenue. We sure would have had some explaining to do if we derailed way up there! My biggest regret was not getting any photos, since there was still plenty to see. This is USS Baldwin DS4-4-750 20, and an EJ&E SW1200, taken with a telephoto lens from Burley Avenue on 5-25-86, about a year before my return. LEON KAY PHOTO
Bryan Howell Mill had its last heat in 1993. My grandfather was a millwright until they closed and then was hired to work on the clean up operation.Joe Zeller I can see the nose of another engine, behind that bldg to the right. Maybe?Kevin Piper That is VO-1000 21.
Tony Margis posted
View from the beach back in 1973.

Tony Arduino posted four photos with the comment: "Need help...are these photographs of US Steel South Works or Gary Works? Year unknown. Photo by Calumet Studio on 106th St. Is this photograph at the museum?."
[Some comments indicated Gary, but the consensus, and I concur, is South Works.]
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U. S. Steel South Works. EJ&E RR swing bridge near bottom left. South Slip is visible. Youngstown is gone and taken over by the Port District. Probably c 1970.

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South Slip and railroad yards.
Bob Lalich It appears that #8 blast furnace was still under construction in the top left corner of this photo. It was fired up in August of 1970.

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Rod SellersRod manages the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Southeast Chicago Historical Society. Port District facilities at Iroquois Landing.
George Dosen Transoceanic Terminals. Probably early to mid 60's
Rod SellersRod manages the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Southeast Chicago Historical Society. Youngstown ceased steel making at the Iroquois Landing site around 1960. The steel maker still owned the land which was leased to Iroquois Terminals Inc.
[It is nice to know that the Calumet River used to see a significant number of "salties" (international) ships.]

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Dan Ess shared a link
South Works, 20.11.58
Photo from Charles W. Cushman collection.

Daniel Bovino posted
US Steel South Works ~ Molten iron pours from a huge ladle into an open hearth furnace to be refined into steel. Iron came from the blast furnaces, then went to the open hearth and then to the finishing mills. All of these processes took place within the South Works plant; therefore, it was an intergrated mill.
Gene Sferruzza: I was a Metallurgical Inspector at both Interlake and Inland Steel in the early/mid 1970's. Inland still had TWO open hearths operating at that time. We should have "modernized" our steel manufacturing facilities long before this time.
Bill Rupp: My dad worked there his entire career. He was a GM & was responsible for anything electrical throughout the plant. At its peak total employees over 20 thousand.
FYI, they supplied much of the steel that built the Loop.... John Hancock & Sears tower!!!

 


Rod Sellers posted a photo of the Acme blast furnace that was still standing in 2004.
This is one of several photos documenting the saving of some artifacts in Pullman then moving them to a Steelworkers Park near the iron ore storage wall.

Dennis DeBruler posted two photos with the comment:
Mike Kieltyka created a photo album, https://www.facebook.com/groups/120664941289363/permalink/1822240367798470/, concerning the Structural Division of the USS South Works. I selected a couple of photos that illustrate how important railroads were for industry back when we had industry. The first photo is an aerial view showing the railyard by the lake and the many spurs into the buildings. The second one shows "52-inch carloads ready for shipment."
Rod Truszkowski Dennis DeBruler you can't put residential on the land too polluted it would make a great place for a casino/ hotel /arena site with park land along river and lake even the Obama library would work there and help the area.
Dennis DeBruler
You and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. The plan I read about included houses. Maybe that is why the plan did not work. They hauled enough mud from the bottom of Lake Peoria to cover a slag field 4-feet deep to make a park, https://industrialscenery.blogspot.com/.../us-steel-south...
Rod Truszkowski A good deal of the "LAND" the mill is built on is slang and byproduct from the mill the city and state let them fill in the lake front numerous times. The park across the river is also fill from the mill. A good deal of the old mill properties are toxic. One spot in the old Wisconsin steel plant is so bad they "cleaned " it up wearing suits and air tanks, black topped it, and then fenced it in. No trespassing signs everywhere
Rod Truszkowski Railroads used to use slang because it was cheap they used it when they built the last C&WI bridge over the Cal river then they found out it was toxic so they stopped using it
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Rod Sellers posted
Where am I?
Mark Simunic I think that is the lifesaving station across the slip from the blast Furness at South works.

Bill Staniec commented on Rod's post
Here is where it was. Next to South Works, South Slip.
Look at all the boats waiting their turn.

Rod Sellers commented on his post
Exterior view of U. S. Life Saving Service (predecessor of the U. S. Coast Guard) located near the mouth of Calumet River, next to the south slip of U.S. Steel Plant 1963. This property is still federally owned and never was part of U. S. Steel as seen in this 1941 map.
Bob Victor Rod Sellers - The original Coast Guard Station was later used by the Army Corps. of Engineers when the picture was taken. From USCG files. Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor is located on the southern end of Chicago's lake front in Calumet Park and was originally placed into service in 1933 as Station South Chicago. Before that, the previous station commissioned in 1915, was located on the north bank of the Calumet River, just inside the river's mouth. In a continued state of growth, the present station has undergone two renovations: the addition of floating boat docks and three mobile homes.

MWRD posted
A view of Harbor Ave/Lake Shore Drive to the northeast from Mackinaw Avenue in Chicago on September 7, 1923, taken during construction of a portion of the Calumet Intercepting Sewer along Harbor Ave.
Mike Girdwain The concrete sidewalks are nicer than today. The street is about the same, lol.Jan Erkenbrack Selling potatoes.
And the sign says Buffet Breu on draught. Which was how we spelled draft back then.

Bob Lalich shared

John Domansky Sr.
Mike Crowley Actually that is looking east at the south slip at South Works. The 14&E blast furnaces in back ground.
Bob Lalich Yes, looking east from 90th St.
[Street View]

Al Miller posted
William B. Schiller in South Chicago, This photo appeared in the Lake Carrier's Association Bulletin in July 1954.

Steve Vanden Bosch posted three photos with the comment: "This photo from the Library of Congress 4a0608u shows an unidentified Whaleback Steamer at Illiniois Steel Works South Chicago in the 1900's."
Alex Parker It looks like the Pathfinder later known as the Progress.
Built 1892. Scrapped 1934
https://www.flickr.com/photos/upnorthmemories/9568154939[Illinois Steel Works was one of the companies JP Morgan bought to create US Steel.]
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There is a 1965 map and an aerial photo in ejearchive. If I understand a copyright complaint correctly, I'm not supposed to provide URLs to information. So happy hunting.

Comments on postings of the map by another person:
Dennis DeBruler I wonder when the swing bridge was replaced by the lift bridge.
Ron Harris Along about 1975

Kevin Piper South Works wasn't just about steel. It was about people, neighborhoods, and Chicago. It was about America. There were over 20,000 people employed there during the 1970's. The ethnic blue-collar neighborhoods supporting the mill were pure Chicago. African-American, Polish, Italian, Irish, they were tough, hard-working folks, who often worked dangerous and dirty jobs, making the steel that helped build America and its economy. South Works is about a time in American history that is now gone forever. 

There was a Greek joint near the north gate that served the biggest and best Gyros I ever ate. A new automated rod mill went on-line in 1975. In 1980, plans were being made to produce new continuous welded rail at South. This could have saved the mill. Cheaper foreign rail flooding the U.S. market, plus a weakening economy dashed those plans. It meant something to be employed at "Da Sout-Werks." 

South Works was mainly a structural mill. Mostly I-Beams, rods, and plates. No coils, wire, sheets, or tinplate here. During the 1980's, all blast furnaces were shut down for good, and steel was produced with scrap melt from a newer electric furnace. The mill closed in 1993.
Bob Lalich Kevin Piper - rails were produced at South Works also.
Mark E. Vaughan Then did the bridge 710 which is between the Laborers Dorm and the Yard Office take the line back to Kirk Yard? Did the tracks stub NW of the engine service facility and the roundhouse or did the travel farther off the map?
Bob Lalich The tracks connected to the IC and B&O west of what are labeled Yard C and E on the map.

Comments on postings of the aerial photo by another person:
A very detailed satellite photo of South Works. By the 1970's, about 2/3 of the structures located below the ship slip in the center were removed. The high-line storage yard in the 9 o'clock position later became a large paved EJ&E employee parking lot. The curvy south blast furnace high-line can be plainly seen cutting through the lower center portion of the photo. This long and steep structure was especially spooky at night. The big 89th Street foot bridge over the Train Yard was also gone by the '70s.

Bob Lalich I believe this photo was taken during the strike in 1959. Note the complete lack of smoke.

Lou Gerard posted
U.S. Steel South Works, South Chicago, B.F. Affleck in the south slip. 1975.
 
Rod Sellers posted

Rod Sellers commented on his post
U.S. Steel South Works, Iron Ore Unloading, UPI Photo, November 10, 1959
First ore boat unloading at South Slip of South Works after a four month strike idled the mills. The configuration of the South Slip was different from the North Slip which had parallel walls. One of the walls of the South Slip was diagonal creating a triangular shape near the end of the slip. One side of the slip was next to ore yards. The other was next to the rail yards in the mill. Attached photo shows South Slip.





Dennis DeBruler: $775m in 1948 is worth $8.8b in 2021. [convert]

Rod Sellers
Admin
These photos are from a project SECHS did some years ago for the Illinois Digital Archives (IDA). It had a larger component called the Industrial Heritage Archives of Chicago's Calumet Region (IHACCR). There are additional photos of South Works in IHACCR that are not on the IDA. Here is a link to that site: http://www.pullman-museum.org/ihaccr/sechs.html


3 comments:

  1. I would offer $100,000.00 - environmental costs would be paid by the sale of the soil,
    rich in minerals - ancient soil, might contain some gold, silver, zinc, bronze, copper, much lead, molibdinum (sp?) iron, and artifacts, like arrowheads, animal parts; inexpensive building (erect in the center) to house environmental machinery. Is anyone interested to help me? call me at the office 8 to 5, not otherwise.

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  2. Sometimes it's a practical difficulty to express the real impression of some great work with a few words. I found the US steel south works details with remarkable and historical background you flashbacked here was an incomparable read and experience. Seriously, I got impressed swimming through your precious long details. The US Steel, the plant north of the river was Illinois Steel, Eber B. Ward, Great Lakes shipping business, Chicago Rolling Mill Company, buying 73 acres of land "with 1,500 feet of frontage on the Calumet River and 2,500 feet on Lake Michigan, EJ&E RR swing bridge, Youngstown, the photo from Charles W. Cushman collection, the Acme blast furnace- oh, what not super valued industrial history you depicted here for us. I was bound to stick to each word you inserted regarding the US steel and also Chicagoland history. In fact, I was browsing for the interest of collecting information about steel fabrication melbourne but I was totally spell-bound finding me into your super praiseworthy presentation. Much appreciation and respect for this quality stuff.

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  3. It was easy to have a love/hate relationship with the mill. I worked in the BOP Shop and occasionally at the Electric Furnace. Three workers were kill there while I was there, working on jobs I had worked on previously.

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