Sparrows Point Steel Mill and its Communities are being honored as a vital ‘place’ of enduring importance in the industrial heritage and story of Maryland. For 125 years, tens of thousands of steel workers and associated personnel have known Sparrows Point Steel Mill (Baltimore County) not only as a place of employment, but as the center of community life, with special importance in the company towns of Dundalk and Sparrows Point. Created by the Pennsylvania Steel Company in 1887, and taken over by Bethlehem Steel in 1916, the mill became the world’s largest center for producing steel – evident in the girders of the Golden Gate, George Washington, and Bay Bridges – and for shipbuilding. As a key production site during both World Wars, Sparrows Point peaked during the 1960s and saw a gradual decline in the decades that followed. Though today it faces permanent closure, the mill remains a significant place that grounds a living heritage amongst former workers and community members, as well as a site that is deeply associated with a constellation of collective and personal memories. Accepting the award on behalf of the mill’s community are two Baltimore County oral historians, Louis Diggs and Elmer Hall, as well as theDundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society. Researching the history of African-Americans in Baltimore County for 17 years, Louis Diggs has also focused on the African-American neighborhood of Turner Station in Dundalk. His book, From the Meadows to the Point, is a compilation of memories and personal photographs of Turner Station residents, many of whom had worked at the mill over the course of the 20th century. Elmer Hall, who grew up in the company town of Sparrows Point, is also instrumental in recording the stories of local residents and steelworking families, as well as establishing a popular Sparrows Point reunion picnic for the past 7 years. As a key community repository, the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, located in the center of Dundalk and run by dedicated volunteers, serves to safeguard the heritage and living memories of the mill and its surrounding areas through its extensive archives and exhibitions on local history, annual train gardens and other public events.
Posted: March 3, 2013, 5:00 PM