Forty-one years ago, the last trainload carrying the structural shapes (known as “trees”) destined for the World Trade Center in New York City pulled out of Lukens Steel in Coatesville, PA. They were the last, of many, which would frame the first nine floors and soaring lobbies of the North and South Towers of the world’s tallest buildings at that time. As the horrors of 9/11 unfolded, it was the lasting images of the “trees” still standing which would etch an indelible image in the minds of those who viewed them. The trees became the icons of the tragedy. Little could anyone fathom in 1969 that those same “trees” would once again be returning to Coatesville some four decades later, to become the centerpiece of The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum in Coatesville. Steel shapes no longer, but now respected relics of one of our nation’s worst national nightmares.
The 28-truck convoy is estimated to arrive in Coatesville, within the confines of The Lukens National Historic District, on April 14 in the early afternoon. Their arrival will be greeted by a distinguished procession into the city. A welcoming ceremony will be hosted by The Graystone Society, with 9/11 remembrances. President of The Graystone Society, Scott G. Huston (a direct descendent of Rebecca Lukens, the first female industrialist in The United States) will chair the event.
“It’s our goal,” says Huston, “to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11, as well as the steelworkers who created the steel for these monumental buildings during the 1960’s.We feel that it is only fitting that these trees become the keystone of The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum, especially as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 draws near.”
The City of Coatesville welcomes this significant and historic event to its environs. It is viewed as a key element in the “rebirth” of this storied steel town and architecturally-rich city. Coatesville recently broke ground on a new high-rise Marriott Hotel and meandering River Walk, which will take pedestrians past vistas of the Brandywine River and of Coatesville’s rich industrial history.
The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum considers the acquisition of the World Trade Center “trees” to be the bedrock in artifact development for the museum. Well on its way to fruition, the museum will be located in The Lukens National Historic District and will draw national crowds to the facility, which will educate the public on the people, places, products and processes of steel making.
A committee is now being formed by The Graystone Society to oversee the design and construction of a memorial incorporating these “trees” into the landscape of the Lukens National Historic District.
This summer will mark 200 years of the iron and steel industry in Coatesville. Two hundred years ago, an expectant mother was forced to take over the reigns of her husband’s burgeoning company after keeping a deathbed promise. Rather than shy away from her responsibility, Rebecca Lukens embraced her role as manager of the company, in a time when women were primarily occupied with housework and child rearing. Her Quaker background and conviction to God helped her create the framework for what would eventually become The Lukens Steel Company. The Graystone Society, which was created in 1984 to help preserve the city’s historic architecture, also assists with municipal improvement and economic development through preservation. The Graystone Society is named for the Graystone Mansion, part of The Lukens National Historic District, which is the future home of The National Iron and Steel Heritage Museum. The Lukens National Historic District is located at 50 South First Avenue, Coatesville, PA 19320.