The factory that produced the first welded steel pipe is partially abandoned. Wheeling Steel’s Benwood Works dates to 1884 when Riverside Iron Works, its earliest predecessor, became the second mill in the area to produce steel.
The use of natural gas for industrial purposes began a steady rise in the late 1880’s, prompting demand for tubular goods for piping gas. The company opened a pipe mill in 1887. Despite skepticism that it could be achieved, steel was able to be formed into pipe and threaded.
In 1899, Riverside Iron Works was acquired by the National Tube Company. Shortly after, National Tube constructed a 500 ton blast furnace to reduce its dependence on Carnegie Steel for raw material. The facility grew to consist of two pig-iron blast furnaces, five buttweld furnaces, and two lapweld furnaces. It also had two 5 ton Bessemer converters, three 8-foot cupolas, and two 3-hole soaking pits. It was capable of 1.25 million gross tons of pipe and boiler tubes and 40,000 tons of galvanized goods per year.
National Tube’s Benwood Works was later acquired by Wheeling Steel. The company retired the blast furnaces in the mid-1950’s, opting for steel slabs sourced from its Steubenville Works. Wheeling Steel was acquired by the Pittsburgh Steel to form the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation in December 1968.
Foreign competition was chomping away at Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s dominance in the piping industry by the 1970’s. In September 1982, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel notified workers that it planned to close the Benwood Works on December 15. The move would result in 500 workers losing their jobs, although most had already been laid off. On December 9, the company postponed closure plans as negotiations with the United Steelworkers (USW) were underway. The USW eventually settled on a pension plan designed to shrink the workforce to 200 to 250 employees.
Citing deteriorating market conditions and overseas imports, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel closed the Benwood Works in July 1983. Most of the former Benwood Works has since been reused, although a portion along the Ohio River remains abandoned. Read on →