My Pennsylvania

National Museum of Industrial History & Hoover-Mason Trestle

September 1, 2016

We visited the latest Smithsonian Museum, the National Museum of Industrial History. It has been years in the making, and we were so excited to check it out. Located on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel, which is a very appropriate location for a museum that deals with industry.museumDSC_0112 (1)The building opens with large machinery and a exhibit that focuses on the machinery that was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibit of 1876.machines 1

wheel

There are helpful volunteers everywhere, and they are more than happy to tell you about the machinery in the building and how it functions. It would be an engineer’s dream. I must admit I was more than a little disappointed about the lack of in-depth exhibition about Bethlehem Steel. The baskets in the photo below held steel workers’  belongings in the plant. There was not a lot of discussion about it other than the work pioneered in the Steel research labs (Homer Labs) and photos of the workers.

stell basket

There was an interesting showcase about the development of propane gasses, from an industrial by-product to a fuel source. I loved the “hot air balloon” ride which takes viewers virtually over a propane plant as if you are in a hot air balloon.

I also appreciated the mention of the dangers of child labor that was part of the Silk Mill exhibits. The Lehigh Valley was once home to dozens of silk mills, many of which, employed children. child workers

Included was a map of the locations of silk mills throughout the area and audio recording of former employees talking about their jobs in the factories. They had the actual machine from the Laros Mill that was used to manufacture fabrics for the White House.jacquard machine The exhibit also illustrated different parts of the silk weaving process, from bobbins to the finished product.silk bobbins

All in all, it was a fascinating museum. There is room for improvement. I would love to know about the workers’ lives in depth as well as a discussion of the ethnicities of the employees. I would also like to know more about the role of women and children as industrial employees. I think the museum is off to a great start, although it is small, especially by Smithsonian standards.

Since we were at the site of Bethlehem Steel, we spent some time walking among the buildings.building1

As I remember the Steel throughout my child as an operational plant, it is weirdly eerie to see the building empty. That is not to say the site is unused.  Much of the site has ben developed into Steel Stacks, a concert and performance venue. They have everything from the Frank Banko Ale House Cinema, an outside concert event area, to restaurants. The stacks themselves are just stunning. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk on the Hoover-Mason trestle which is an elevated pedestrian walk way above the steel compound. From this vantage point, it is possible to see the remains of a great steel plant in action. The view is fantastic. Make this a must visit for any tour of Bethlehem, PA.

steel building

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You can read about the botanical gardens on the trestle walkway here.

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Deborah
Guest

Wonderful and thank you… we did the walk around the stacks, however didn’t see the museum in action, so will return!
Hopefully with a greater audience and traffic to this great site of history, the museum will grow.

Jenn
Guest

I didn’t know the museum actually came to be. That’s terrific!

Lora
Guest

Your photos are outstanding. They make the steel works seem suspended in time.

Melissa Avey
Guest

This place looks like a lot of fun! Great pictures.

Athanasia
Guest

I agree, your pictures are very nice…so much detail. I am guessing these structures are vastly immense in size. Impressive.

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