Defunct Bethlehem Steel's 21-story HQ, Martin Tower, imploded

Bob Brooks Image
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Hundreds gather to watch as Martin Towers are imploded in Bethlehem
Hundreds gather to watch as Martin Towers are imploded in Bethlehem: Bob Brooks reports on Action News at 9 a.m., May 19, 2019

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WPVI) -- Sixteen thousand tons of Bethlehem Steel collapsed in a matter of seconds as a demolition crew imploded Martin Tower, the defunct steelmaker's former world headquarters.

Crowds gathered on Sunday to watch the demolition of the area's tallest building, a 21-story monolith that opened in 1972 at the height of Bethlehem Steel's power and profitability.

America's second-largest steelmaker went out of business in 2003.

Martin Tower implosion, as seen on Action News at 7 a.m., May 19, 2019

For neighbor Larry Ries it hurt to see it come down.

"It's a shame I grew up with it," said Larry Ries of Bethlehem. "Im sorry but hate to see that they couldn't save it."

Ries is not alone. Many people in the crowd of hundreds had an emotional connection to former world headquarters of Bethlehem Steel.

Just about everyone we spoke with knew someone, family or friend, who at one time worked for the company.

"It's the end of an era," said Jim Alexy. "It's a bit sad and nostalgic. My dad worked there on the 3rd floor when it was built."

Explosives took out Martin Tower's steel supports and crumpled the 47-year-old building in under 20 seconds.

Watch the complete Martin Tower implosion and aftermath as seen from Chopper 6, May 19, 2019

Martin Tower had been vacant for a dozen years. Up until Sunday morning, it stood as the tallest building in the region, even earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some like Clement Swaby had been using it for years as a guide.

"I used it when I'm driving certain places to pinpoint my way back home," said Clement Swaby of Bethlehem.

It also signified what once was here. Bethlehem Steel was one of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world.

Its owners are redeveloping the site into a mix of medical offices, stores and apartments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.