And when the resulting U.S. Steel Corp. began buying up land along the south shore of Lake Michigan in 1905, Indiana was on its way to becoming the dominant player in the American steel industry.
Judge Elbert H. Gary, U.S. Steel's CEO, had decided on the site in the sand dunes of northwest Indiana for perfectly good reasons. The area was easily accessible by water and rail to the rich iron ore of the Minnesota ranges, limestone from the Lake Huron side of Michigan and coking coal from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Taxes were cheaper than in nearby Illinois, and the site was close to the Chicago rail hub and the growing Midwestern and mid-Atlantic markets for steel.
Gary's name now graces the mill as well as Indiana's fourth-largest city. The Gary Works has remained one of the nation's premier integrated steelmaking complexes for most of this century. Although Inland Steel was there first, building a small mill at East Chicago in 1901, the sheer size of the U.S. Steel mill was almost beyond the imagination of turn-of-the-century Hoosiers. U.S. Steel paid $7.2 million for some 9,000 acres of land and began moving construction crews onto the site in March 1906. By summer, crews had begun building what was to be the biggest steelmaking complex in the world. The work was Herculean. Engineers had to relocate the Grand Calumet River and remove more than 12 million cubic yards of sand. They poured two million yards of concrete for the blast furnaces and mill buildings and constructed railroad yards that had a capacity of 15,000 rail cars. They built a mile-long harbor 25 feet deep and 250 feet wide to hold the ore boats that would soon be arriving from the upper Great Lakes.
Working conditions were primitive. Workers walked across the dunes to the construction site from the nearby planned community of Gary.
By the time the aptly named cargo vessel Elbert H. Gary arrived at Gary Works with a load of Mesabi Range iron ore in July 1908, the massive industrial complex was fast taking shape. In December of that year, the first of 12 planned blast furnaces began producing molten iron. By the end of 1909, more than 6,800 employees - most of whom would eventually build houses in the new town of Gary - had produced nearly 600,000 tons of steel.
U.S. Steel continued building facilities at Gary Works through the 1910s and the World War I years. In 1920, Gary Works had already become U.S. Steel's flagship plant and had laid the groundwork for Indiana's eventual commanding lead in steelmaking.
Today, Gary Works is still the flagship mill of the U.S. Steel division of USX Corp. And it's still one of the most productive mills in the world. In 1997, nearly 90 years later, Gary Works set a new world record/for annual hot strip mill production 6.275 million tons.
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|Title Annotation:||United States Steel Corp.'s steelmaking complex in Gary, Indiana|
|Publication:||Indiana Business Magazine|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1998|
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