The story of a forgotten America.

Exploring Wheeling Steel’s Benwood Works

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 1880s, prompting demand for tubular goods for piping gas. Riverside Iron Works opened a pipe mill in 1887 despite skepticism that steel would be able to be formed into a pipe and threaded.

In 1899, Riverside Iron Works was acquired by the National Tube Company, and shortly after, the company 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 lap weld furnaces. It also had two five-ton Bessemer converters, three eight-foot cupolas, and two three-hole soaking pits. It was capable of producing 1¼ 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, which retired the blast furnaces in the mid-1950s, opting for steel slabs sourced from its Steubenville Works. Wheeling Steel was acquired by 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 1970s. 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.


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Hey Sherm! That title photo is so great. Its rare to compose a photo that creates emotion is other people. I can picture the smells, the sounds, the feel of that photo.. its amazing. Thanks for continuously creating 🙂

Does anyone know why this shell of a building such as this isn’t recycled? It appears to be made of steel and at times scrap metal has brought a premium price.

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