Bethlehem, Pa – The National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH) has broken ground on an outdoor park that will nearly double the museum’s available space to educate the public about the country’s industrial past. The park, part of a $275,000 project, will reimagine 17,000 square feet of the museum’s property into a new area where visitors can see working machines and follow in the footsteps of generations of workers and inventors. Utilizing actual industrial machinery from Bethlehem Steel and beyond, the park will show the process of transforming raw materials into finished products and highlight innovations in industry.
“We’re very excited about this project. Being able to break ground on a significant new part of the museum, despite all of the hardships this year has brought, is a silver lining during a tough time,” said Kara Mohsinger, President and CEO of the museum. “We just celebrated the fourth anniversary of the museum and this is a perfect way to kick off our fifth year. This new park will allow us to bring even more history to life, host additional workshops and programs, and offer more artifact demonstrations than ever before.”
Construction on the park is expected to last approximately two months. Several large-scale artifacts will be installed in the park, including a number of original Bethlehem Steel machines. An electric arc furnace, a miniature basic oxygen furnace, a 10-ton ladle, and a rare ingot mold all donated by Lehigh University were once used at Bethlehem Steel’s Homer Research Labs, the current home of Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus. An 11-foot-tall Bement, Miles & Co. steam hammer dating to 1887 and a Wellman Engineering Co. charging machine, the last of its kind in the country, are both original to the plant and will be restored to operational status. A 1941 Whitcomb diesel-electric locomotive has already been installed and restored to working condition on a narrow-gauge track in the future park area.
The two furnaces are the only on public display in the northeast United States and will be situated with the locomotive and charging machine to approximate how a typical steel mill melt shop operated. Raw material mining will be showcased with several artifacts including a steam-powered hoisting engine and operable aerial cableway similar to those used in the slate and iron mining industries, as well as a rare Ingersoll-Rand channeling machine used to cut into solid rock. These artifacts and planned demonstrations of their uses will help tell the overall story of how raw materials are transformed into steel. Live interactive demos will include forging using the steam hammer, iron smelting, casting, and slate splitting.
Also of note, the park will serve as the new home for the Steelworkers Veterans Memorial, currently located in the parking lot at 3rd and Polk Street. Built by steelworkers and dedicated in 1989, the memorial honors employees of Bethlehem Steel who served in the armed forces.
“This project is truly something for the whole community to enjoy,” said Megan Pildis, Vice President of Business Development at NMIH. “The Steelworkers Veterans Memorial relocation, the ability to see working industrial artifacts up close, and the addition of another park in South Bethlehem are all amazing assets for the community and for visitors travelling from out of state. We thank all of our local and state partners who have helped us break ground on this important addition to the museum.”
Funding for the project came from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development Greenway Trails and Recreation Grant Program, Northampton County’s CIPP and Hotel Tax programs, the City of Bethlehem’s Redevelopment Authority. Work for the park is being conducted by Alvin H. Butz, Inc., Panzitta Enterprises, Inc., Simone Collins Landscape Architecture, Bean, Inc. Contractors, Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery, Albarell Electric, and Eschbach Brothers.
NOTE: Due to the ongoing pandemic and to encourage social distancing, in lieu of a traditional groundbreaking ceremony we will host press on a one-on-one basis. If you would like to send a reporter and/or photographer to obtain footage, photos, or interviews, please use the below media contact information. Museum personnel, including the President/CEO, historian, and others are available for interview in person, via Zoom, or email.
A Smithsonian Institution-affiliate, the National Museum of Industrial History is dedicated to preserving America’s rich industrial heritage. Housed in an 18,000-square-foot, 100-year-old former Bethlehem Steel facility on the largest private brownfield in America, the Museum is home to exciting exhibits, engaging programs and amazing history. Learn more at nmih.org.
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