Courtesy of the Buffalo History Museum
Courtesy of the Buffalo History Museum

Looking Backward: Hanna Furnace

by / Feb. 24, 2015 11pm EST

“A quick look at the monstrous blast furnaces and huge ore stockpiles of the Hanna Furnace Corp. as you speed south on Furhmann Boulevard is not apt to leave you with a sense of overpowering beauty in a physical sense, but stop and think a minute. Sure, the place is ugly, the buildings grimy, the air sooty. But look at it from the standpoint of production.” —Buffalo Courier Express, November 4, 1951

The Hanna Furnace Corp., 1218 Furhmann Boulevard at the Union Ship Canal, was one of the country’s largest manufacturers of merchant pig iron. The company was first known as the Buffalo & Susquehanna Iron Co., established in 1902, and became a subsidiary of the National Steel Corp. in 1929.

When this photograph was taken in 1949, Hanna Furnace was nearly at peak production, with 800,000 tons of pig iron produced annually by 950 workers. The place was never still, pig iron being produced 24 hours per day. In summer, shipment of iron ore and limestone was a continuous operation in order to provide the four blast furnaces with material for smelting operations and also to lay down reserves for winter, when the Great Lakes were icebound. Coke was brought in from the Buffalo Plant of Donner-Hanna Coke Co. Five million gallons of water per day were used to cool the furnaces and the finished “pigs,” after they have been cast in the familiar shape of an inverted trough.

Citing foreign competition and slumping demand for pig iron, the National Steel Corp. closed the plant on January 29, 1982. More than 350 people lost their jobs. Asked to comment, Hanna Furnace electrician and United Steelworkers Local 2497 president Joseph Carr said, “Everyone is depressed—especially because there is nothing left to hope for.” By 1985, Hanna Furnace was largely dismantled by a scrap steel concern.

The City acquired the property through tax foreclosure in 2001, after which the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. undertook brownfield remediation resulting in the development of the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, where about 400 people are now employed. The Union Ship Canal, excavated in 1903 to facilitate the transshipment of ore by lake freighter, is now accessible to the public.