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Ensley Furnace: 1936

Ensley Furnace: 1936

March 1936. "Steel mill and company houses -- Birmingham, Alabama." The Ensley works of the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company, along with the skeleton of a snagged kite. 8x10 inch nitrate negative by Walker Evans for the U.S. Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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Steely Life

Don't know what would be bleaker, working at the mill, or living in those houses.

Those Snagged Kites

can be electrifying. When I was a kid, the neighbor kid was flying a kite in our yard when it got stuck in power lines. The wind was blowing it around and as it was blowing, the kite was wrapping two lines closer together. He goes to get an aluminum ladder to get his kite and while I was yelling at him to NOT do it, the two wires touched, blew up and the power went out. His reaction was "hey, my kite came down".

What to do with 600 acres now

Most of the Ensley plant has been demolished, but the smokestacks, below, still stand. Here is a history of the plant and property, still owned by U.S. Steel's USS Real Estate division. The last listed redevelopment proposal was in 2011.

Click to embiggen

Mom walked here ...

The neighborhood that my mom grew up in was Ensley. She and my grandfather would take walks down to see the furnaces there. These are now gone, but there is another of these old furnaces in the area that has been converted into a landmark.

My wife and I took a vacation to Birmingham this past summer and stopped off to check out the furnace, just because of the memory of my mom visiting the one in Ensley.

I have never seen a photo before. This photo is a direct connection to my youth and memories.




I was especially struck in this photo by the row house on the left. As a child, I remember going to see relatives of my father who lived in houses like those. 

Chamber of Commerce shoot

I think the colorized version might not look too dissimilar.

Long timers?

Did steel workers of that day live in the company houses for very long or were they able to save up enough to buy a place outside the mill area? The factory would have been up to maximum capacity in a few years.

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