Alpha Portland Cement Company

Alpha Portland Cement Company, formerly located in Ironton, Ohio, produced cement. Abandoned after a period of financial difficulties, the complex was razed in 2010.


The Ironton Portland Cement Company was founded in the late 1800’s and was later acquired by the Ironton Cement Company. In 1910, the company discovered a 100-foot thick vein of limestone 575 feet under the plant property while drilling for gas.8 The operations was purchased by the Alpha Portland Cement Company in 1920.

In May of 1924, two stock houses were constructed by the Macdonald Engineering Company. The stockhouses had a storage capacity of 170,000 bbls., consisting of eight bins 33-feet inside diameter by 80-feet high. The concrete structures were built with a moveable form, which meant that the concrete was poured continuously throughout the day and night. The walls were called ‘monolithic.’ An average of eight-feet per day in height was constructed, with ideal days pushing that up to sixteen-feet.

The finished cement at the storage plants was carried by screw conveyors and bucket elevators from the finish mill to the stockhouse for storing. When it was ready to ship to customers, the cement was drawn from the bottom of the silos into the screw conveyors, and was done through numerous spouts and feeders under each bin. The screw conveyors under the bins carried the cement to bucket elevators which elevated the cement to the screens above the packing bins. The screens were the screw conveyor type, which perforated housings to catch spray material or heavy lumps of cement from going to the packers.

Above each of these packers were packing bins which held approximately 350 bbls. of cement each. The amount of storage above the packer meant that the machine could keep going at short periods even though part of the equipment had to be stopped for repair or replacement. The packing machines were in pairs, meaning that the machines could deliver to each side of the packhouse. This was done via belt conveyors and the usual apron was provided to load to hand trucks for busing into the rail cars. Two railroad tracks existed on each side of the packhouse for shipping and a track shed was provided over the tracks to prevent rain and snow from interfering with the shipping operations.

The windows in the packhouse were never lined with glass. They were instead covered with steel plates on hinges. It allowed for light and ventilation when opened, and were not subject to breakage. As reported in the Cement Mill Section of Concrete, dated from May of 1924, ‘It is a fact in some plants that when the glass in the windows becomes covered with cement and the light is dim, the glass is broken out to admit more light, but then, in case of a storm, some temporary protection must be made.’

Mine shafts were constructed to retrieve the raw materials necessary to operate the cement plant. Extensive mine shafts were dug out, some of those being very deep. Locomotives, equipment, and other machinery were all dismantled before they entered the mine shaft, then reassembled once it reached its final destination deep within the mines because the machinery was very heavy and bulky. The mines, however, did not extend southwest towards the Ohio River and stopped short of the US 52 expressway.


The last tax appraisal was done in 1968. The Alpha Portland Cement Company closed on August 20, 1970, for what the company cited ‘financial reasons.’ The company further elaborated that terminating operations at ‘unprofitable’ facilities is an essential step in improving the profitability of Alpha’s cement division. Releasing the working capital committed to these plants permits management to move ahead with the expansion of its profitable plants and to more effectively manage those areas of high profit potential.’ Another official stated that ‘the plants on the Ironton generation cannot complete with the large modern plants of today,’ noting the fact that the plant was constructed in 1901. The most productive year, as noted by the company, was in the late-1950’s.

The plant employed 175 people.


There had been much discussion after it was discovered that the state air pollution control regulations actually closed the Alpha Portland Cement Company. The plant was a major contributor to particulate pollution in the Ironton and Coal Grove areas. The cost to modernize the plant and install proper pollution control devices would amount into the millions. Weill, former chairman of the Retail Merchants Division of the Ironton Chamber of Commerce, stated that, ‘the cost of putting in air pollution control devices wasn’t economically feasible for Alpha Portland.’ He added that two new plants in other states could take on the load easily.

There was also the rumor that the plant folded because the mine shafts had been dug below the water table and started flooding after a collapse. Some tunnels went as far down as 571 feet. Read a newspaper article, ‘the mine shafts became flooded. Unsuccessful efforts were made to pump out the influx of water. All machinery, locomotives, railroad tracks were quickly abandoned. The tunnels were sealed, never to be opened again.’

For ten years, the Alpha Portland Cement Company continued to own the property and payed taxes, which amounted to $57,000 annually. It was later sold to another person who stated that, ‘the building was to be condemned.’

The Ironton Tribune in the late 1990’s published an article that had the title of, ‘Abandoned site draws increased wrath of county’. In the article, county commissioners stepped up their pursuit of the owners of the former Alpha Portland Cement Company. They wanted the owners to safeguard the site as the commissioners were concerned about the possibility of someone being injured at the site. That fear was realized soon afterwards when a 15-year-old fell into one of the storage tanks and became injured as a result.

‘This is the kind of thing we’ve been trying to tell them would happen,’ commissioner George Patterson said. ‘Now he is messed up for the rest of his life.’

No further efforts have been made so far in safeguarding the site so far. In 2003, a small shed was constructed to convert metal objects into scrap metal, but is not related to the former operations of the Alpha Portland Cement factory.


Map

The map of the Alpha Portland Cement Company is bordered by Hog Run Road (CR 181) to the east and Lorain Street to the south. The map is oriented with the top being north. An abandoned railroad served the property but was taken out of service in the early-1980’s.

Alpha Portland Cement Company

  • Structure #1 is immediately above the packhouse and is a group of three interconnecting silos. Structure #2 is another group of three interconnecting silos. Strucure #3 is the last of the three interconnecting silos.
  • Structure #4 is the Packhouse, and the adjacent Structure #5 is the railcar loader. Structure #8 is immediately jadacent to the railcar loader and acts as a railcar shed.
  • Structure #9 is the safety memorial that is similar to the Mesquite Cement Company in Superior, Ohio. Structure #10 are ruins of buildings that once existed, and the grayed boxes indicate destroyed buildings.
  • Structure #6 is a circular building that may have been a pump house. It is located on the banks of Hog Run. Area #7 is a deserted property that once housed several buildings; today it houses a small green shed that scraps metal for a small business located on the east side of Hog Run Road.
Sources

  1. Lindquist, A. J. “Alpha Portland Cement Co. Completes Two Stockhouses.” Concrete May 1924.
  2. Bauer, David C. L. “Abandoned site draws increased wrath of county.” Ironton Tribune.
  3. “It was the year of 1985.” N.p.: Alpha Portland Cement Company, 1970.
  4. “Alpha Portland Cement is Closing.” Ironton Tribune 20 Aug. 1970.
  5. “Alpha’s Closing County’s Loss.” Ironton Tribune 25 Aug. 1970.
  6. Ferguson, Leigh. “Alpha Closing Threat to Economy.” Ironton Tribune 24 Aug. 1969.
  7. Caldwell, Michael. “Old cement factory spooky link to Ironton’s past.” Ironton Tribune 5 Jan. 2004.
  8. “Limestone Mine in 1910.” Story of the Glorious Past, One Hundred Years. N.p.: n.p., 1949. 27.

12 Comments

  1. ive been there actually i live about 10 mins from it its really creepy at night i think we should get some type of Taps, or Ghost team out here and look at it!!!!!! it really creepy inside of it

  2. Would you happen to know the owners of this company?

    best regards,

    James

  3. I lived in Ironton during the 50's through the mid 60's. You can't believe the amount of junk that was in the air because of this plant. I remember when the first pollution control came in. The company could only release the particles one day a week – so instead of sending stuff every day, it all came blowing out on, I think, it was Saturday night.

    To give you an idea of how the particulate pollution was. A friend was driving over the Ashland bridge while they were painting it. Some paint hit the car but because there was so much dust on the car, it never soaked through! This was a car owned by an individual who washed his car every week!

  4. Just came across this site and this Intron info. Very interesting, but not totally accurate.
    I was involved in an investigation of this plant and mine to see if the mine could be used for the Stratigic Oil Reserve Program. This was in the mid 70's. We reopened the mine shafts, set up a large crane for a mine hoist, and traveled into the mine to do a detailed geologic survey. I believe we spent about a month or more exploring the mine. The mine was not flooded, although one section which is at a lower elevation had filled to a depth of around 20' with water. This was only a very small portion of the entire mine workings. The rest of the mine was dry, and in good shape. All the mining equipment was left underground when the operation closed, and it was all still setting there, waiting for operators, if they ever came back to work.
    A former mine supervisor named Charles Turvey, went underground with us every day as a guide and helped us interpret the mine maps we had. He was also sort of a caretaker for the site for Alpha Portland, who still owned the property at that time.

  5. I worked at the Alpha Portland Cement Plant At Ironton Oh. From 1965 Till It,s closure in 1970 Most of the time in the mines. I worked under Cliff Butler and
    Charles (Boo) Turvey And I must Say It was the best place I ever worked. We had the best Contract of any of the plants in the aria. And all the bosses were our neighbors Safety in the mines was foremost I was a roof bolter with Bill Boyd. and made top wages I think $3.65 per hr. John Davis was the plant manager then.
    The plant on the top side was Old ,Most all parts had to be made in the machine shop Run by Andy Shope and I,m sure it was expensive ,and time consuming.
    But you always wanted to go to work there you just couldn,t wait to get there . And we made a perfect salable product You can still see it in the Greenup Dam.
    I,m sure a lot of things contributed to its closing..But REMEMBER there weren,t any houses in that part of town at the time the plant was built so dust was not a
    problem

    • Do you know if you ever worked with a Charles E. Cornell at the Alpha Portland Co.? He is my husbands dad that I have been trying to find for years.

  6. I drove thru ironton this past summer-2013-visiting where my mom grew up. There were workers in the act of tearing down what was left of the old plant at the time. A waitress in a local restaurant told us that the word was that the entire plant was being demolished. the people doing the work didn’t look to be very well equipped but were slowly breaking up the silos and the rest of the buildings. most of it was already gone.

  7. I live very close to this property. Big hazard to ornre high schoolers. I’m guilty myself! Lol
    It’s gone. Flattened. I was kinda sad to see it go :(
    History lost*

  8. Hey Sherman!

    Do you know anything about who currently owns the property where the cement plant formerly stood? I believe there are lots for sale now that are on that site. I was looking at property over there and am glad I stumbled across your website. I wonder if the mines or anything left behind from the cement factory would cause issues with building on the land there. They are selling lots in larger parcels of 5-20 acres, I think. Let me know if you have any insight. Hope you are doing well! :)

  9. My dad who passed away May 8th 2015, William (BILL) E. Ellis was the plant manager at ALPHA PORTLAND, as a kid it was exciting to walk around the facility while in operation and see the workings of how they made cement. I used to fish in the quarries and there were some whopper bass and crappie. My dad worked through out the change of hands, from Ideal to Holman, to the end when they were just loading train cars and trucks. He was hired straight out of college as plant manager in the mid 50’s and stayed there up until the mid nineties. I sure miss my dad.

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