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In Baltimore, a symbol of the holidays goes dim

Marketplace Contributor Dec 27, 2012
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In Baltimore, a five-pointed star lit by dozens of light bulbs shines over a mill once operated by Bethlehem Steel. The star has been a holiday fixture for decades, but it will likely be extinguished for good once the holidays are over.

The star at Sparrows Point steel mill first rose in the late 70s, shining atop a massive blast furnace.

“It was a symbol of Christmas,” says Mike Lewis, a crane operator at the mill for 34 years. “If you were sitting on the right side of a plane making its final approach to BWI, that star was visible. It’s something that’s always been there.”

Sparrows Point was operated for most of its 120 years by Bethlehem Steel. At its height in the 1950s, it employed 30,000. But
earlier this year, the mill declared bankruptcy and was sold to a liquidation firm. 2,000 people lost their jobs.

The mill has been dark since spring, but current owner Hilco Trading decided to light the star anyway.

Mike Lewis figures it’s a gesture of solace. “You know I’m happy they lit the star, but, put that into the perspective of the annihilation of a plant and a lot of peoples’ livelihoods. I just almost think it’s like the vultures showing a little bit of mercy until a baby calf totally dies,” he says

This time next year, the furnace that the star sits on will likely be long gone.

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