Portraits in Steel: The Steel Plant Museum

The steel plants that once fueled Buffalo’s economy and saturated our sunsets with their towering plumes of smoke are long gone – but they are hardly forgotten. Companies like Bethlehem Steel and Republic Steel still define Buffalo’s sense of itself as a hard-working, blue collar, shot-and-a-beer town, even as the city transitions to a future built on Tesla solar panels and wind-generated energy.

While there are still plenty of elders around who made a living in the searing heat of a basic oxygen furnace, Buffalo’s Steel Plant Museum makes sure that their memories, as well as the artifacts and totems of Buffalo’s industrial heritage, have been collected and curated for the enjoyment of future generations.

Located just down the street from the site where Republic Steel once stood, the Steel Plant Museum is part of the Heritage Discovery Center, a complex that houses other history-focused organizations such as the Western New York Railway Historical Society, the Buffalo Lighthouse Association and the Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society.

What makes the Steel Plant Museum a special experience for visitors is the “you are there” perspective of the museum’s docents. These former steel workers felt the heat, washed off the grit and took home paychecks the hard way. In telling their stories they bring to vivid life the ingenuity, complexity and epic magnitude of a once great industry. It’s a memorable experience.

The Steel Plant Museum is located at 100 Lee Street in Buffalo. The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10-5. Admission is free. For more information, visit steelplantmuseumwny.org or call 716-821-9361.