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RUST BELT IN WEST VIRGINIA

INDUSTRIAL KANAWHA VALLEY PHOTOS

Weirton Steel
Feb. 2007 image by author

Perhaps West Virginia's quintessential Rust Belt, located in the old Cleveland-Pittsburgh steel belt, town is Weirton. One of the main products of Weirton Steel has been tin plated steel. Empty parking lots in this photo are indicative of a workforce that has shrunk from about 12,000 employees to 1,200.

weirton blast furnaces
Feb. 2007 image by author

Weirton Steel was part of National Steel until 1983. In the middle of the collapse of the American steel industry National Steel offered to sell the company to its employees, and the employees accepted the offer. The company soldiered on through good and bad years for the next two decades until it was purchased in 2003 by International Steel Group, who in turn was absorbed into Mittall Steel. Sadly, Mittall shut down the hot end of the mill, and now the blast furnaces have gone cold, as shown in this picture. In the fall of 2007 demolition of these furnaces by Arcelor-Mittal had begun.

weirton steel mill
Feb. 2007 image by author

View of blast furnaces and steel mill in Weirton from up on the hill.

weirton steel furnace
Feb. 2007 image by author

The mill continues on toward the downtown section of Weirton. Pictured here is the building containing the unused Basic Oygen Furnace.


Feb. 2007 image by author

Wires crossing Route 2 at the steel mill in Weirton.


Feb. 2007 image by author

Detail of the Weirton mill showing an International Steel Group sign.


Feb. 2007 image by author

No. 9 Tandem Mill.


Image source lost

Weirton Steel at its peak in the 1950's.

follansbee coke ovens
Mar. 2006 image by author

This coke plant at Follansbee, WV was originally owned by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Co. and now operates as Mountain State Carbon. Later, it was actually partially owned by RG Steel. Although RG went down the drain in 2012, this facility was able to keep operating at a reduced pace.

Mountain State Carbon
Mar. 2006 image by author

Another view of the coke plant at Follansbee.

Koppers Follansbee
Mar. 2006 image by author

All of this plumbing is required to capture the by-products of coke. The old industrial fixture Koppers Company is involved in this aspect of the Follansbee coke plant.

Wheeling Pittsburg Follansbee
Mar. 2006 image by author

Hot coke sits smoking in gondola cars in March 2006 before being shipped across the river to Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Company's blast furnace at Mingo Junction, Ohio. W-P also had recently constructed an electric furnace at Mingo Junction. However, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. is now history, and those hot metal operations across the river have been idled for a while now.


Mar. 2006 image by author

View of the Follansbee coke plant from the southern end of the operation.


Mar. 2006 image by author

Despite the aroma from the coke ovens, Follansbee is a pleasant town with a large Italian-American population and well kept homes such as these.


Image by others

Inside the empty former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Co. sheeting plant at Beech Bottom, W.Va.

Blaw Knox Warwood
Oct. 2006 image by author

The old Blaw-Knox plant in Warwood, WV.

Labelle Nail Plant Wheeling
Mar. 2006 image by author

The LaBelle Nail plant in South Wheeling, WV billed itself as the largest cut nail plant in the world. It was built in 1852, and closed down in 2010. When it shut down the Wheeling Intelligencer quoted a LaBelle employee as saying, "My father worked there for 40 years, and I worked there for 37. It's sad to see it go. Now, here I am at 58 years old trying to start over." This gentleman also noted, "There was just so much foreign competition. Now, there were plants in China and (South) Korea that took some of our largest customers."


Mar. 2006 image by author

Detail of the LaBelle Nail plant.


Mar. 2006 image by author

The back side of the LaBelle Nail plant.


Jan. 2006 image by author

The cathedral of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese in Wheeling, WV. Wheeling is the Catholic capitol of West Virginia due to the large number of Irish, Polish, Italian, and other European immigrants that came to this city.


Oct. 2013 image by author

Upper Ohio River Valley community of Benwood.


Jan. 2006 image by author

Remnants of the old Wheeling Steel pipe mill in Benwood, WV. In the background is the dangerous and dilapidated former toll bridge between Benwood and Bellaire, Ohio.


Jan. 2006 image by author

Another view of the remnants of the Benwood pipe mill. The first steel pipe in America was manufactured in 1888 at Benwood, although not necessarily at this plant.


Jan. 2009 image by Willy Nelson

The sad looking remains of the Fostoria glass factory in Moundsville, W.Va. It closed in 1986.

Clarksburg WV
Sep. 2006 image by author

Clarksburg, WV is a classic Rust Belt town that is also home to the West Virginia Italian Festival.


Sep. 2006 image by author

Disconnected smokestacks echo the lost industrial greatness of Clarksburg.


Dec. 2007 image by author

UCAR carbon plant in the Annmore section of Clarksburg.


Feb. 2009 image by author

Factory and store of Fenton Art Glass in Williamstown, WV. Fenton has made glass in Williamstown since 1907. This plant announced plans to shut down in 2007. However, collectors responded to the announcement with a flurry of purchases, and the plant was able to stay open. But in 2011 the company announced another closure, with the company president stating, "The market for our pressed and blown glassware has diminished. We cannot sustain the overhead costs." The plant still produced industrial glass and glass beads, though. Recently US Glass, Inc. acquired the facility and plans to make it more sustainable and viable.


Jan. 2014 image by Mike Tewkesbury

The Johns Manville Glass Fiber Manufacturing plant operated in Vienna, W.Va. from 1908 until 2006. The plant has since been demolished and all asbestos properly disposed.


wvbrownfields.org image

This industrial relic in Parkersburg was once the Vitro Agate marble factory.

Another manufacturing concern in Parkersburg was the Baldwin Tool Works, built in 1910. In 1931 or '32 this plant became the Ames Co. shovel factory. This factory operated into the 21st Century, even after a merger with True Temper.

United Steelworkers of America Local 1651 represented the workers. By 2005 Ames was asking the workers of the Parkersburg plant to accept a 58% reduction in wages, as well as reductions to benefits and holidays. The union said "no," and the plant was closed. Production moved from West Virginia to Mexico and China, prompting one newly-unemployed ex-Ames employee to quip, "America's workers are dead in the water at any price. Let's hope WalMart opens up some bigger stores, because there are no jobs." The factory itself burned down in 2017.

Century Aluminum
May 2008 image by author

In 1957, at the height of America's industrial might, Kaiser Aluminum constructed this aluminum mill near Ravenswood, WV.

Ravenswood Aluminum plant
May 2008 image by author

Detail of Ravenswood Aluminum Mill. In 2008, when I took this picture, the plant was operated by Century Aluminum and appeared to be running full speed ahead. Yet less than a year later, Century laid off 651 employees and shut the plant down.

The adjacent but separated company at this site, Alcan Rolled Products, continued to produce, and was later operated by Constellium. In 2012 700 members of United Steelworkers Local 5668 went on strike at the Constellium plant over workers' health insurance benefits.


Mar. 2006 image by author

CSX railroad trestle in Guyandotte, Cabell County, WV.


Mar. 2006 image by author

This is the Huntington Alloys works of the Special Metals Corporation in Guyandotte, near Huntington, WV. It was built in 1922 as a nickel alloy mill operated by the International Nickel Company.


Mar. 2006 image by author

View of the Special Metals plant in Guyandotte, WV.


Mar. 2006 image by author

Another picture of the Special Metals alloy plant - note the internal rails for transporting materials around the plant.


Mar. 2006 image by author

This photograph shows another perspective of the Special Metals plant. I believe that there has been quite a lot of R&D performed at this facility over the years.


Mar. 2006 image by author

Ventillation stacks at Special Metals Huntington Alloys plant.


Mar. 2006 image by author

The Huntington plant of American Car and Foundry (ACF) built "covered hopper cars," Center-Flow cars, and other kinds of rail cars for over 100 years.


Mar. 2006 image by author

Shops of ACF Industries in Huntington. The facility once employed 1,600 workers, and around 400 as late as the 1990s, but the Huntington Herald-Dispactch reported in 2010 that there were four workers remaining - and three were security guards. The newspaper also noted that, although the plant once built 28 Center-Flow rail cars a day, "...by 2001, the market for the Center-Flow cars had dried up and most of the plant’s workers had been furloughed. The few that remained mostly made wheel pairs for tank cars manufactured at ACF’s plant in Pennsylvania. Now, even that work apparently has come to a halt." (Mar. 2006 image by author)


Mar. 2006 image by author

Warehouse district in Huntington, WV.


Mar. 2006 image by author

A portion of Steel of West Virginia's mill in Huntington, WV.


Mar. 2006 image by author

Steel of West Virginia began operations in 1909.


Mar. 2006 image by author

As illustrated by the heap of scrap metal in the background, Steel of West Virginia is a "mini-mill" of sorts.


Aug. 2009 image by author

Steel of West Virginia as seen from across Third Avenue in Huntington. From what I hear this operation is prospering.


Mar. 2006 image by author

Norfolk-Southern railroad trestle in Ceredo, WV.

This June 1956 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article titled "Fabulous Plants Dot Ohio River System" illustrates a different, more prosperous, more optimistic era:

"Fabulous is the word for the industrial development going on in the Ohio Valley - on the Ohio River and most of its tributaries ... Huge sums for atomic development are included in these totals - nearly a billion dollars at Paducah, Kentucky; a billion and a quarter near Portsmouth, Ohio; half a billion at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; seventy-four million at Fernald, Ohio; fifty million at Shippingport, near Beaver, this latter a Duquesne Light atmoic power plant. Time was when steel and coal made up a dual monarchy that occupied the industrial throne in the valleys of the Ohio and its tributaries. This is not true today. There still is steel, still coal - both large scale, both now in process of big expansion - but there is now in the area a diversification that covers virtually every field of industrial activity. Aluminum, which had its industrial birth in the area on the Allegheny at New Kensington under the Alcoa banner, and which is now in what is perhaps its greatest expansive mood, has turned heavily to the Ohio Valley, mostly below Pittsburgh. Two great plants, representing capital investment of about $350,000,000, are going up. One is in Ohio just below Clarington, almost opposite New Martinsville, W.Va. The other is in West Virginia, a few miles below Ravenswood ... A real giant of the Ohio Valley development is the chemical industry. Many new plants have been built in the past few years by the major chemical companies and several multi-million dollar expansion programs are planned or are being carried out below Moundsville ..."

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