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Blog: When Bethlehem Steel was shopping NWI

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If you've been around Northwest Indiana long enough, you might remember when Bethlehem Steel opened its Burns Harbor plant. It was in 1964.

In 2014, the plant celebrated 50 years of steelmaking. This time, however, the owner was ArcelorMittal.

It was a big investment a half century ago. If it wasn't the last new integrated steel mill built in the United States, it had to be one of the last ones built here.

Bethlehem Steel thought long and hard about that plant before building it.

How long, you ask? Longer than you might believe.

I glanced today at the Dec. 8, 1906, front page of The Lake County Times to see what was happening 110 years ago. A lot, as it turns out.

  • The body of Maurice Quinn was recovered the night before from the Hammond grain elevator. He had been covered by 6,000 bushels of wheat. With grain up to his neck, despite efforts to rescue him, he told his co-workers, "I guess it's all off, fellows," and died.
  • Adolph Valene, who had left Chesterton in 1905, was murdered in a Tucson, Arizona, saloon by a man named Wander, who had been released from jail the morning of the murder. Wander found Valene in a saloon, demanded $2 from Valene, then drew his revolver and severed Valene's windpipe withe the bullet.
  • Albert D.W. Erskine, president of the First National Bank of East Chicago and of the Indiana Harbor State Bank, sold his bank stock.
  • From Stevens Point, Wisconsin, came the story that Tony Burke, a locomotive engineer, was sent to an insane asylum after a wreck at Woodville, in Porter County, in which 62 immigrants lost their lives. 

And Bethlehem Steel, as you probably figured out, was considering its options in Northwest Indiana.

The steel giant, which filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 15, 2001, built its plant along the shoreline in Porter County.

But in 1906, it had been considering land in Lake County. Robertsdale was considered an option.

"Good factory sites are still to be secured in this neighborhood and the Bethlehem Steel works, eager to settle in the Calumet region, will probably locate there," the story said.

If the company had built in the Stiglitz Park neighborhood, it would have dug a canal from the plant to Lake Michigan, something it wouldn't have to do if it built on Lake Michigan.

"Stiglitz Park is situated on the streetcar line running between East Chicago and Whiting, and the establishment of the factory there would mean that Robertsdale would after all not be the material gainer that it was at first thought it would be," the story said.

The steelmaker also considered options in what became Beverly Shores, but finally settled for its Burns Harbor location, with agents buying up land for the massive plant in the 1950s.

Nearly half a century passed from the time Robertsdale was being considered in 1906 before the new plant in Northwest Indiana finally opened.

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.


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Related to this story

For those who believe newspapers care more about slaying than sleighing, I'll offer the Dec. 23, 1916, front page of The Lake County Times.

On Dec. 8, 1906, The Lake County Times told readers that Bethlehem Steel officials were considering options for a new plant in northern Lake County.

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