Ohio Valley’s Steel Heritage on Display

Librarian Alan Hall gained a new appreciation for the local steel industry after he saw black and white photos of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.

The public will have a chance to see those photos starting next week, when the “Steel Industry in Jefferson County” photo exhibit opens on Sept. 30 at Eastern Gateway Community College.

A reception for the exhibit, shot by photographer Ben Halpern, is scheduled from 4-7 p.m. Oct. 1 in Founders Hall at Eastern Gateway. The event is open to the public.

“‘Steel Industry in Jefferson County’ is … intended to preserve the history of the steel industry of the Ohio Valley,” Hall said. “It includes a collection of 50 professional pictures and presentations relating to the steel industry.”

The exhibit runs through Oct. 26.

“I think the public will be very impressed with how well the pictures were aesthetically printed, framed and captioned. Ben truly captured, through a camera lens, the past 150 years of the industry that shaped our community,” Hall said.

Programs associated with the exhibit will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 in room 2102 at Eastern Gateway, when Halpern will discuss the photographs and his involvement with the project.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 9, West Liberty University professor emeritus David Javersak will present “Voices of Lasting Metal: Steelworkers in the Ohio Valley.”

Then, at 7 p.m. Oct. 22, Thomas Leary of Youngstown State University will present “American Steel: Legacy and Heritage.”

“The steel industry project is a collaborative effort that the library is very proud to be a part of. I think it will spark much interest and discussion for years to come,” noted Hall.

Hall has never worked in a steel mill much less visited one. But he is well aware of the steel industry’s history and impact on the area.

“I’ll admit when the idea was first brought to us I wasn’t very excited about the project. But after seeing the black and white photos of the different areas of the mill, I am excited by what Ben has been able to accomplish. …

“We started the … project a year ago when we applied for an emergency grant from the Pugliese Foundation. We knew there were plans to dismantle part of the Steubenville plant … and we wanted to preserve as much of the history of the mill through photographs.”

The photos also will be archived into the West Virginia Regional History Collection at West Virginia University.

“I have learned so much about the steel mill since we started this project, including the fact the blast furnace in Steubenville was one of the longest operating furnaces in the United States. It was started in 1900 and underwent several rebuilds but it operated until 2005,” said Hall.