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25 Years Ago, Bethlehem Steel’s Coke Ovens Division Closed for Good | WDIY Local News

 Coke Works, Bethlehem, PA, circa 1993.
Joseph Elliott
Contributed photo, National Museum of Industrial History
Coke Works, Bethlehem, PA, circa 1993.

This month marks a quarter century since Bethlehem Steel shut down some of its last major operations, and several events marking this historic moment are being planned for later this year.

The National Museum of Industrial History said March 28 marks the 25th anniversary of the closing of Bethlehem Steel’s Coke Ovens Division.

According to a museum release, on that day in 1998 the division ceased operations, and was the last of the Bethlehem plant’s primary operations to close.

NMIH said the Bethlehem Coke Plant became operational in 1912 and at its peak the plant had around 500 ovens making coke, a fuel used in the steelmaking process created by baking bituminous coal.

The Coke Ovens Division also drew in immigrants seeking employment at the Bethlehem plant, including laborers from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain and several Eastern European Countries. At its peak, the Coke Plant employed over 500 people.

The closer of the Bethlehem Coke Ovens Division in 1998 followed the shuttering of the Structural Mills and Blast Furnaces in 1995, and the closure of the Combination Mill in 1997.

The museum said in its release that on Sept. 16, 2023, former Coke Oven employees will celebrate their 25th annual reunion. The event is open to all former steelworkers from the plant, with more details to be released online in early summer.

Over 200 former Coke Oven employees gathered at the Silver Creek Athletic Association in Springtown just six months after the closure, and the reunion has since become an annual tradition.

NMIH also said that its annual Steel Weekend and Steelworkers Reunion, scheduled for Sep. 30-Oct. 1, 2023, will focus on mining as well as mark the quarter-century anniversary of the coke oven closing.

(Original air-date: 3/28/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky is WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director.
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