Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Death of a Town

Weirton, West Virginia
Creekside Estates

Today's a day I have mixed emotions.  There is a small museum in town that I thought would be interesting.  It is the Weirton Museum and Cultural Center.
Now bear in mind that Bill and I spent many years in this area.  

In 1909 E. T. Weir started a steel mill in the Holiday's Cove now known as Weirton.  Twenty years later the mill merged with  Detroit and Cleveland mills to become National Steel.  
This is a photo taken in 1957.  In the 60's when I came to town, when you rode down Main Street you needed headlights on in the day time to see.  There was so much smog it was terrible.  Over the years, the smog dissipated as well as the jobs.  

The mill employed over 8,000 employees and everything in town was a direct influence by the mill.   

In the 80's the mill announced that it was offering the employees an ESOP--Employee Stock Option Plan or they would close the mill down.  Employees were told that in order to save their jobs, they needed to endorse the ESOP. The ESOP agreement passed and it became the largest in the world.  Part of the agreement was a 20% reduction in wages and a five year wage freeze.  

Once the ESOP was approved the employees felt they could do anything since it was "their mill".  You would go down a street and see every home painted the same color.  The same color paint that was used on the mill.  Employees would brag about how many hours they slept on the job.  

In 2004, 10,000 retirees were told that their health care was cancelled.  Many of the employees took early retirement as a buyout.  

Today you drive down Main Street and it looks like a ghost town.  Just many rusted abandoned buildings.  

In 1944 the mill made 8 inch howitzer shells.

At one time they had bus service with the Pittsburgh/Weirton bus company.

One thing that was very positive in this area was the school pride and sports.  
The band played in the 1960 Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena.  

This chair used to be at Simon's Furniture which began business in 1933.

It wasn't the best museum we've ever visited, but it definitely looks like they are trying to preserve their culture and history.

Most people who live in the area, travel up to Robinson Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh, to shop and save on sales tax.  Steubenville, Ohio is directly across the Ohio River and also draws from the Weirton businesses.  

These were piles of Weirton Steel Badges that every employee received.

Bill found something interesting in the football section.

Here's a photo of Bill's football coach from Follandsbee, the town south of Weirton.  This was after Bill graduated.  Doug Stone, coach, also became his father in law when he married his former wife.  

I thought this quote about football was good.

We were allowed to roam around the museum as the docent was working upstairs to expand the museum.  One other person came and went.  There is a donation container and other than that no fee.  

The town is trying to recover and each time we come back there is some small improvement.  

I read this article about the ESOP and thought it was interesting.  The article shows that is wasn't all the fault of the employees.  I've never tried to put a link in a blog before but here's the website. 



Turtle Safely.....













8 comments:

  1. And it's taken less than 12 years to die. I'm glad they're trying to preserve their history even though it has a lot of sadness in it.

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  2. It like that all through the rust belt. One company town, and if that company dies, so does the town.

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  3. Thanks for the interesting posting. Amazing how how things can change so quickly over a few years, nice to see even small improvements.

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  4. At least they are headed in the right direction

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  5. Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Many people travel through here and think its depressing.

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    2. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Many people travel through here and think its depressing.

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  6. It's a hard thing. One one hand having the air clean again is surely better for their health but having to go miles away to work is difficult. As in nature and perhaps all things, diversity is really essential. Without it, the company has total control of everyone's lives. Glad there is some hope there.

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