Martin Tower is no more.
May 19, 2019 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Built during the boom times of American Steel, Martin Tower was seen as the crowning achievement and as a sign of corporate greed all in one.

At 7:03 on May 19, it was imploded

Some drone footage
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a (12 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps we could consider demolishing other capitalist icons?
posted by evilDoug at 12:24 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]

Video: implostopm at 3:30.
posted by hilberseimer at 12:25 PM on May 19

The first linked wikipedia article says it was infeasible to rehabilitate the tower for other uses because of the cost of asbestos removal. So, ok, cool, but wouldn't you still need to remove the asbestos before imploding it?
posted by sjswitzer at 12:59 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]

According to the FAQ, asbestos was removed.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 1:04 PM on May 19

When a company redesigns its logo or builds a new high rise headquarters, it's almost always a portent of doom.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:09 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]

The Wikipedia article also notes that it was on the National Register of Historic Places, which I would have thought would have prevented its demolition.

A quick search for "martin tower" "register" "historic places" reveals how much news agencies share the same text (more than a dozen results include the phrase "on the National Register of Historic Places despite its relatively young age"); one of the hits, though, is a longer article with several images from the interior, taken from the NRHP submission. The article, from Lehigh Valley Live, notes:
Martin Tower is historic for all the wrong reasons.

When it was dedicated in 1973, the headquarters of the Bethlehem Steel Corp. -- built with the company's own materials -- was touted as a symbol of the giant corporation's strength, vision and dedication to the region.

But when it is demolished in the coming months, it will be as a symbol of failure, the place where comfortable executives isolated themselves as their decisions sank a once-titanic industry.

In 2010, the 21-story, 332-foot-tall tower, the tallest in the Lehigh Valley, was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but not for any design or architectural significance. The application for the National Park Service's list (which includes interior photos that can be seen below) lambasts decades of upper management that was too impressed with itself and too slow to respond to the changing market.
"Martin Tower reflects (Bethlehem Steel's) corporate culture of extravagance and laissez-faire attitude that flew in the face of a workforce continually being asked to reduce costs in order to make the company more profitable," the nominating form reads. "As corporate executives flourished in their modern skyscraper fit with the finest furnishings including valuable artwork and meals served on silver, profits plummeted, plants were shut down and workers were laid off."
Martin Tower is historic, it turns out, because it is a cautionary tale.
Ooh, but they left out the next bit:
Martin Tower is the embodiment of the factors that contributed to the near total collapse of an entire industry and is certainly one of the most important relics in Pennsylvania documenting a pioneering industry at it's peak whose failure led to regional economic suffering during our nation's transition to a service economy.
Ah, and here we go - that article links to the NHRP Martin Tower entry itself. The whole registration form (PDF) is worth a read - and lots more cool photos in there as well.

Personally, I'm kind of sad to see any building torn down - but I love learning about the history of buildings. Thank you for posting this, 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a!
posted by kristi at 1:33 PM on May 19 [20 favorites]

A friend was part of the team that re-developed Bethlehem Steel's old blast furnace site into an arts and culture venue. It's terrific: an art house movie theater, an performance space, a cafe, a pavilion for summer concerts, space for the huge tents of Christkindlmart and other events. And all of it is in the shadow of the old furnaces, which still stand, with a pedestrian walkway across them so you can get a sense of what they were when they were alive. I heard this as part of a public radio story about the demolition of Martin Tower, and it's right: "I think what's important is we've maintained the actual part of the company which turned out the steel for World War II, for the Golden Gate Bridge, for much of the skyline in New York City. So that remains."
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:40 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]

Some mechanism of internalizing the cost of carbon emissions cannot come a moment too soon.
posted by wierdo at 4:19 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

Sounds like this is the ending of a pretty tragic story. I hope the city of Bethlehem can be reinvigorated at some point, and that the space will be quickly redeveloped.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:44 PM on May 19

Wait why did they knock it down after they took out all the asbestos?

I mean it wasn't the prettiest thing, but... knocking down a big boi like that to make "three story garden apartments" is the worst.
posted by ethansr at 9:21 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

The amount of energy wasted when we demolish perfectly usable buildings is stupefying. That's not to say that an isolated skyscraper surrounded by parking lots is a place designed to promote a sense of community, though. It's likely that whatever they build it will at least have the outward appearance of an actual place with an actual community, but it's also likely that the reality will be the same as any of the other thousands of "lifestyle centers" we've built in the past decade: Nothing but an illusion.

This is a topic that's been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, since first seeing the city of faith in Tulsa and other isolated skyscrapers in Dallas and elsewhere. It's hard, but reusing the existing structure is the only way forward in our present situation. We don't have the luxury of wasting the carbon emissions that resulted from the original erection, especially when the plan is to turn around and emit even more constructing something else.
posted by wierdo at 3:13 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

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