A Tower Built for Success
When Martin Tower, formerly known as Bethlehem Steel Martin Tower, was constructed in 1969, it was designed to symbolize prosperity and power. Towering 101.19 meters (332.0 ft) above Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, it was the tallest building in the greater Lehigh Valley.
Designed by the renowned architectural firm Haines Lundberg Waehler, the tower featured a cross-shaped design that provided ample corner and window offices for its occupants.
The building was named after Edmund F. Martin, the then-chairman of Bethlehem Steel, one of the world’s largest steel manufacturers at the time.
With each of its 21 floors housing a different department, Martin Tower became the bustling headquarters for a company that established an impressive milestone in 1973 by manufacturing 22.3 million tons of raw steel and delivering 16.3 million tons of processed steel.
Table 1: Martin Tower Timeline
|Placed on National Register
|June 28, 2010
|May 19, 2019
The Golden Age of Bethlehem Steel
In the 1970s, Martin Tower was the epitome of economic success in the Lehigh Valley. The building’s luxurious features, such as wooden furniture, company logo-engraved doorknobs, and handwoven carpets, showcased the wealth and prestige of Bethlehem Steel.
The company’s success translated into prosperity for the entire region, with the steel industry driving employment and economic growth.
However, as the steel industry declined in the following decades, Martin Tower’s fortunes also changed. By 1987, the tower was almost entirely vacant due to a shrinking white-collar workforce. It was put up for sale, and other companies occupied the tower and its annex.
A Struggle to Preserve History
Despite being placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 28, 2010, Martin Tower stood vacant from 2007 until its demolition in 2019.
Over the years, various proposals emerged to repurpose the building, such as converting it to condominiums, apartments, or retail spaces. However, the presence of asbestos, the cost of its removal, and the housing market crash made these plans unfeasible.
To save the iconic building, the City of Bethlehem applied for and won a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) designation in 2013. The city envisioned a restoration project that would remove asbestos and add a sprinkler system to the building.
Table 2: Martin Tower Details
|101.19 m (332.0 ft)
|59,789 m2 (643,560 sq ft)
|Haines Lundberg Waehler
|Lewis Ronca and Norton Herrick
The End of an Era
Sadly, despite efforts to save Martin Tower, its demolition became inevitable. In January 2019, the building’s proprietors revealed that their comprehensive redevelopment strategy would involve tearing down the tower.
On May 19, 2019, Martin Tower was imploded by Controlled Demolition, Inc., in a “textbook implosion” that lasted just 16 seconds.
The formerly renowned structure, comprised of 16,000 tons of steel and 6,500 cubic feet of concrete, came crashing down as a crowd of onlookers watched in awe and nostalgia.
Reflecting on the Legacy of Martin Tower
As the dust settled, the community mourned the loss of an architectural marvel that had once symbolized the steel industry’s heights and Bethlehem’s economic prosperity.
While Martin Tower no longer stands, its legacy endures in the memories and sentiments of those employed within its walls, who lived in the area, or admired its significance from afar.
The site where Martin Tower once stood is now being redeveloped, paving the way for a new chapter in Bethlehem’s history. The mixed-use project will include residential, retail, and commercial spaces designed to revitalize the area and provide new opportunities for growth and development.
Table 3: Martin Tower Demolition Details
|May 19, 2019
|Controlled Demolition, Inc.
|Duration of Implosion
The story of Martin Tower is a testament to the dynamic nature of cities and the ever-evolving economic landscape. Martin Tower remains an essential part of Bethlehem’s history, from its construction as a symbol of the steel industry’s dominance to its eventual demolition.
As the city continues to grow and adapt, the spirit of Martin Tower serves as a reminder of its industrial past and the potential for a brighter future.