During a recent bike ride along the Public Access Bike Path at Route 5 (former Bethlehem Steel territory), I came across this giant “iron button.” Actually, I had to read the accompanying wayfinding plaque to understand the historic significance of the fascinating object.
The story goes that the iron button is the byproduct of molten iron that was poured into a “slag pot.” This 50 ton iron button would typically have been buried, because it could no longer be converted to steel.
What is especially interesting, according to information that was furnished by the Steel Plant History Museum of WNY, is that that when this slag was dumped along the shores of Lake Erie, the fiery burning red-orange glow could be seen from miles away.
The accompanying photos help to tell the story of the iron button, while providing a sense of place at the same time. Currently, this site along the waterfront is in the throes of transition yet again. Along the bike path, wildflowers are prominent, yet steel rises in the distance at the new County backed modern commerce park. Hopefully the City of Lackawanna and the Buffalo and Erie County Industrial Land Development Corporation (ILDC) will continue to infuse these storied industrial lands with additional tale telling devices designed to stoke our imaginations. There’s no reason that we can’t have a solid mix of public access and commerce melded together along this significant waterfront property.
For those who are intrigued by this sort of visual story telling, not far from this iron button site is Ship Canal Commons (easy to get to by bike), where a giant molten iron ladle can be found. It’s these sorts of “larger than life” installations that help to tell the narrative of Buffalo as a Steel Town – without these reminders, the stories and the memories will continue to fade with the passing of each generation.
Also be sure to pay a visit to the Steel Plant History Museum of WNY to get an up close and personal inside look at the industry that helped to build Buffalo into what it is today.