BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Sixteen thousand tons of Bethlehem Steel collapsed within seconds of Sunday as a demolition imploded Martin Tower, the defunct steelmaker former headquarters of the world.
Crowds gathered to see the demolition of Pennsylvania's tallest building, a 21-story monolith that opened at the height of Bethlehem Steel's power and profitability, but had been idle for a dozen years after the US's second-largest steelmaker went out of business .
Explosives took out Martin Towers steel supports and curly 47-year-old building, which had earned a seat on the National Register of Historic Places despite its relatively young age. The implosion, which took 16 seconds, created a thick lump of dust that lingered for several minutes.
Tyler Kent, who has worked in Bethlehem Steel for 46 years and raised 1
"To see it coming down, I got a tear in my eyes. I thought not that would affect me emotionally as it did, but I just can't imagine it's gone. It's so sad, "said Kent, who could see the tower from his house.
Martin Towers current owners spent years trying to rebuild the 332-foot (101 meter) structure – the highest in a Pennsylvania population that includes the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton – but ultimately concluded with more economic sense it down and start again. The plans require a $ 200 million development with medical offices, shops, a restaurant, a convenience store, a hotel and 528 apartments.
Bethlehem Steel was a major supplier of ships and weapons to the US military during World War II, and the Steel is found in the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge and many other landmarks.
The company moved into its new headquarters in 1972, just before the US steel industry died in a severe recession. Bethlehem Steel, which employed more than 120,000 people when Martin Tower opened, declared bankruptcy in 2001 and closed just over two years later.
For some, the tower – built in a cross-shaped shape to maximize the number of corner offices – symbolized the company's profits.
"This is where the money went as the workers never got," said Fran Maiatico, whose father worked at Bethlehem Steel. She was among hundreds of people who gathered several blocks away from the building on Sunday to see that it came down.
Leonard Gentilcore, 88, a retired Bethlehem Steel structural draftsman who worked at Martin Tower, said he did not care that it was gone. He said he was affiliated with the building with incredible business leaders who helped drive Bethlehem Steel to the ground.
But his son, 49-year-old Mike Gentilcore, a former Bethlehem Steel metal scientist, said, "It breaks my heart" that an important piece of company history is no longer. He reminded to look at the tower's windows as a child and later worked there himself.
"It's the end of an era, and I'm going to miss seeing it there," he said.
The company's flagship Bethlehem factory, less than 3 miles from Martin Tower, was converted into a casino and entertainment destination 10 years ago.