Seneca Petroleum Corporation is expanding its operations in East Toledo on the former site of the Interlake Iron Corporation Plant on Front Street.
“The land is kind of unique because the land was originally a coke plant,” said Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Chief Operating Officer Matt Zapara.
“It had some contamination on it and we’ve gone through the process of remediating it. And now, we’re putting it back to use. For a lot of years it sat vacant with nobody working there. Now, we’re going to have people working on it again. I think that’s one of the goals of the port authority is to reclaim this land, develop it, and put people back to work.”
|The Toledo Furnace Company, 1924 (Dr. Raymond Boothe Collection)
Seneca Petroleum, founded in 1921, is an Illinois Company engaged in handling and transporting petroleum related products. Current estimates show this company has annual revenue of $20 to 50 million and employs a staff of approximately 20 to 49. Seneca Petroleum is a division of the Seneca Companies, which was founded in 1973 by Chris Risewick to distribute products and services to clients across the Midwest.
Seneca Petroleum has a small tank farm located on Front Street adjacent to port authority owned property. Seneca plans to expand its operations and requires more land to do so, says a port press release. The port board extended a lease to Seneca for 14½ acres of vacant land on Front Street that was once part of the coking operation.
The port has been involved in remediation of the property, which is ongoing and costing just under $3 million, Zapara said. Now at 7-9 employees, Seneca plans to hire 10 additional workers for its Toledo operation.
“So, we’ve very optimistic that’s that going to be producing some jobs,” Zapara said. “They’ve got contacts all over the place. Seneca Petroleum is a long standing company, they are very strong, based in the Chicago area, but they’ve found Toledo is a very strategic location for their business model from a transportation related standpoint.”
Zapara said Seneca is looking into shipping its products to and from Toledo by Great Lakes freighters and rail.
“One of the things they are focused on is the dock that’s down there right now. They haven’t done that in the past, but they foresee doing that in the future,” Zapara said. “The site they are located on, the Beazler site, actually has water access. At some point, they are going to have rail access to that as well. That’s something they are very focused on because that will help them move product in and out of their dock.”
In East Toledo at Work by authors Larry R. Michaels and Ronald J. Mauter, there is a picture of excavation, some of it by horsepower, being done for the building of the Toledo Furnace Company (became Interlake Iron) along the Maumee River in 1906. A second photo shows a team of horses and a furnace ready to be built. A third photo shows the demolition of the plant’s ovens about 1980.
“When the Malleable Castings factory opened in 1890 on Front Street near Consaul, soon followed by National Milling, Interlake Iron, shipbuilding, and refineries, the Birmingham neighborhood sprang to life almost overnight,” Micheals and Mauter wrote. “By the turn of the century it was a fully-populated community, largely made up of Hungarian immigrants, who flocked to the new world for the jobs offered in these industries.”
The historians turned author added that the Birmingham name ironically comes from Birmingham, England, because it was one of that country’s most industrialized cities.
Author Dr. Raymond Boothe, an independent education management professional from Jackson, Michigan now working in Huntington, West Virginia, has written books about heavy industry and is considered an expert. On a steel industry forum located online, he describes the former Interlake Iron’s location and history.
“I spent many days at the Interlake Toledo Plant. It had one of the tallest power houses that I have ever seen at any iron facility (200 feet high).They made so much power that for years they sold over half of it to Toledo Edison. In addition, the coke plant provided gas for the entire downtown and south side of Toledo.”
Dr. Boothe said the plant was originally built by Pickands Mather as the most modern pig iron plant in the world.
“In 1929 all of the Pickands Mather pig iron plants were combined into the Interlake Iron Corporation. Even when it closed in 1978, it was still one of the most effective plants of its kind ever built,” Dr. Boothe wrote.
“Interlake Toledo was strictly a merchant pig iron operation,” Boothe continued. “In other words, it sold its iron on the open market to any foundry or steel manufacturer. At the turn of the 20th Century there were many open hearth steel companies that lacked iron manufacturing facilities. So, they bought from iron producers like Interlake, made steel plate, and sold the plate on the open market to companies like the American Shipbuilding Company.”
“I would also suspect that many of the custom iron parts that were in the ships of the day, were manufactured ‘in house’ by the American Shipbuilding Company at Toledo, using iron produced by Interlake. The closest major steel mills that produced ship plate were in Detroit. However, Ohio itself had plenty of steel plate manufacturers to choose from.
“Toledo is a major port for the shipment of iron ore, coal, grain and manufactured goods. Besides building ships, the American Shipbuilding Co. made a tremendous business making running repairs on Great Lakes Ships.”
This is an aerial of the Interlake Iron Corporation Toledo Plant ca. 1949. Notice the giant power house between the two blast furnaces. At the top is the coke plant and at the extreme right is a huge Gas Holding Tank. All the buildings in the lower left corner of the picture are part of the American Shipbuilding Company Toledo operations. An ore ship is anchored in the company's slip and in their dry dock. This facility was quite extensive at one time, with machine shops, carpenter shops, fabricating shops and offices. (Dr. Raymond Boothe Collection)
The Toledo Furnace Company, 1924 (Dr. Raymond Boothe Collection)