The Iron & Steel Gallery and “Mystery of Steel” film were added to the Heritage Discovery Center in 2009, during the second phase of the building’s renovation.
The Iron & Steel Gallery is a spectacular, three-story gallery that evokes the feeling of an industrial space. Photos from Pennsylvania’s steel mills, both active and closed, decorate the space. Photos courtesy of Park Cover.
The Mystery of Steel” is shown in a theater at the bottom of the 3-story gallery. It is a film that documents Johnstown’s role in the early steel industry. It includes historic photographs, re-enactments and spectacular high-definition footage JAHA commissioned Charles Guggenheim to shoot in the local Bethlehem Steel mills before their 1992 closing. The theater is equipped with strategically-placed infrared heaters and low-resolution speakers, so that visitors will feel the heat and rumble of a working steel mill as they view the film.
The film focuses on the period of 1854-1880, and tells the story of some of the key technological innovations developed in Johnstown. David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Johnstown Flood wrote, “There is no question about the importance of the old Cambria Iron Works. The age of steel in America can fairly be said to have begun there.”
Permanent seating for the theater was installed in January 2010 — pews from the now-closed St. Joseph’s Catholic Church of Johnstown, which was located on Railroad Street, by the Gautier mills.
In February 2015, a new portion of the exhibition, “A Steelworker’s Story,” opened in the gallery. Guest curator Tom Leslie (pictured above), who worked in the mill from 1974-1992, collected the items in the exhibition, which include signs, product samples, and personal effects such as safety glasses and lunchboxes. The artifacts document all four divisions of the Bethlehem Steel Johnstown Plant — Franklin Works, Gautier Division, Lower Cambria Works, and Rod & Wire Mill. The Conemaugh & Black Lick Railroad division is also included. Photos courtesy of Park Cover.
We gratefully acknowledge UPMC Health Plan for their support of “A Steelworker’s Story.”