Steel foundation director recounts industry's growth here from Brier Hill


Many still contend that the demise of the steel industry in the Mahoning Valley decades ago is attributable largely to a failure to modernize operations and equipment.

But over the course of more than a century – including to this day – the industry continues to evolve and innovate, a local historian says.

“It started out very crude and basic, but has continued with an improvement in the quality of products,” said Rick Rowlands, the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation’s executive director. “A certain amount of innovation was in Youngstown.”

Rowlands provided an overview of the steel industry’s legacy and history, as well as the imprint it has left on the region, during his presentation Saturday morning at the Boardman branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County on Glenwood Avenue.

Hosting the free, 90-minute program, themed “One hundred years of steelmaking in Brier Hill,” was the Boardman Historical Society.

In the 1830s, the family of David Tod, who was Ohio’s governor for two years during the Civil War, owned much of what is now Brier Hill and started the Brier Hill Iron and Coal Co. The business produced block coal that could be used in blast furnaces, along with cast iron, from which many of the day’s appliances were made, he explained.

In 1912, the Brier Hill Steel Co. debuted and featured open-hearth furnaces and more sophisticated means to convert iron to steel; in addition, rolling mills were able to turn ingots into sellable products, Rowland noted.

Read more about the industry's development in Sunday's Vindicator or on

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