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Bethlehem Steel Corporation (Cambria Iron Company, Cambria Steel Company)

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Cambria Iron Company, Cambria Steel Company
1852, S. A. Cox, supervising engineer; many additions. 317 Washington St.
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)
  • (William E. Fischer, Jr.)

With such innovations as the three-high rolling mill and the perfection of the Bessemer process, the Cambria Iron Company contributed greatly to the foundations of the iron industry. The company reached its peak in the post–Civil War era when the demand for iron and steel rails was immense, providing 10 percent of the rails produced in the nation, with over one million miles of rail between 1880 and 1890 alone. George King and Peter Shoenberger founded the company in 1852 to supply rails to the Pennsylvania Railroad. However, the cost of putting the plant into operation and a drop in the price of iron pushed the company close to bankruptcy. A reorganization of ownership and management in 1862 allowed continued production of top quality iron and rails. Between 1852 and 1862, the company made the first thirty-foot rail produced in the nation. By 1873, the Cambria Iron Company was the largest iron and steel works in the United States. Renamed the Cambria Steel Company in 1898, it continued to expand, building mills along the floodplains of the Conemaugh and Little Conemaugh rivers between Morrellville and Franklin.

In 1923, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation acquired the company, modernizing and running it for nearly seventy years. Bethlehem Steel closed the plant in 1992, and sold the property as individual pieces rather than as an integrated mill. Republic Steel and Standard Forging, which produced railcar axles in the rolling mill during the 1870s, bought properties at the far end of the Lower Works downriver from the city. At the upper end of the works, Johnstown Welding and Fabricating now operates in the cavernous, corrugatedmetal, hangar-sized buildings known as the eleven-inch mill and the manganese shop. Fortunately for the city of Johnstown, the most historic part of the works containing the blacksmith shop (c. 1864), rolling mill office (c. 1874), pattern shop (c. 1870), and machine shop (1906) remain. These are the most architecturally significant brick buildings, designed in a Romanesque Revival style, and located in the middle of the property. Bethlehem Steel is donating the four buildings, along with a large parcel of the surrounding land and the road leading into the area, which will be developed for commercial use, tourism along the river, and possibly some light industry in the machine shop.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Bethlehem Steel Corporation (Cambria Iron Company, Cambria Steel Company)", [Johnstown, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 311-315.

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