Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites Offering Tours at SteelStacks Starting September 24
A unique, bird’s-eye view of the towering blast furnaces, Gas Blowing Engine House and other iconic Bethlehem Steel structures, coupled with the inside story of the steelmaking process told by certified guides who worked and/or had family members who were employed at the massive steel mill, highlight the new Hoover Mason Trestle tours being offered at SteelStacks by Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites starting Sept. 24. Tickets for the tours, a partnership between HBMS, ArtsQuest and the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority, are on sale now at steelstacks.org and 610-332-3378.
Located more than 45 feet off the ground, the Hoover Mason Trestle was an elevated railway that for nearly 90 years served as a vital transportation system at the former Bethlehem Steel plant, moving materials used in the steelmaking process throughout the 1,800-acre plant. Two decades ago, when the mill’s blast furnaces went out, the railway ceased operations. Earlier this summer, however, it was opened to the public as an elevated walkway at SteelStacks thanks to a unique redevelopment project undertaken by the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority.
“Historic Bethlehem is pleased to be working collaboratively with ArtsQuest, The City of Bethlehem and the Redevelopment Authority to share this important history with the public,” says Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites President Charlene Donchez-Mowers. “As a descendent of people who worked at Bethlehem Steel, it is so exciting to be able to provide such an intimate look at these massive structures that built America and share the stories of the men who were the heartbeat of the plant.”
The heart and soul of Bethlehem Steel, the Hoover Mason Trestle is the closest a person can get to the crucible of iron and steelmaking in America. Although similar to the High Line in New York City, the trestle stands out because it offers the only elevated view into the American iron and steel industry, with platforms built at key vantage points that highlight the magnitude of 100-ton fly wheels, huge ore cars and the site’s towering blast furnaces. In addition to learning about the steel mill, tour participants will enjoy fabulous vistas of SouthSide Bethlehem, beautiful South Mountain and St. Michael’s Cemetery, which was captured in the famous photographs of Walker Evans in the 1930s.
On the Hoover Mason Trestle tours, participants join a certified Historic Bethlehem guide who either worked at or had family members employed by the plant, allowing them to provide unique insight into the steelmaking process and the day-to-day operations at the massive mill. The easy, third-mile walk includes stops at the trestle’s interpretive stations, as well as opportunities for guests to get up close and personal with old railway cars, the blast furnaces and more.
“The Hoover Mason Trestle is another important component to the visitor experience at SteelStacks,” says Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Tony Hanna. “The trestle is all about connections. Beyond the pedestrian connections to the Sands Resort and its hotel and retail center, as well as the soon-to-be-developed No. 2 Machine Shop, visitors also have a chance to make connections to the history of Bethlehem Steel and the City of Bethlehem.
“The Redevelopment Authority is very excited to collaborate with Historic Bethlehem and ArtsQuest to offer visitors a unique glimpse into an important part of the history of Bethlehem, the former steel mill and the neighborhoods surrounding the plant.”
Hoover Mason Trestle tours will take place Thurs.-Sun. at 11 a.m., from Sept. 24 through December (no tour on Thanksgiving Day). Tour prices are $15 for the tour only, or $18 for the tour and screening of the “Bethlehem: The Christmas City” movie. Tours, which will depart from the Visitor Center at SteelStacks, 711 E. First St., are 45-60 minutes long.
Originally founded in 1800s and closing in 2001, Bethlehem Steel’s steel was used in rails, battleships, factories and skyscrapers. Over the years, the plant helped build iconic buildings and landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, George Washington Bridge, Madison Square Garden, Hoover Dam, Rockefeller Center and more. It also played a crucial role in World Wars I and II, manufacturing one-third of the military’s steel supply.