Fragments of Twin Towers may return to Coatesville
Jennifer Miller , Staff Writer

COATESVILLE -- Pieces of the World Trade Center created by Lukens Steel workers could, in the future, be on permanent display here.
Scott Huston, a direct descendant of the Lukens family and president of the Graystone Society, is working to obtain steel plates or "trees" used near the base of the World Trade Center north and south towers.

On Sept. 11, 2001, highjackers crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

While both towers collapsed, fragments of the building that remained standing were Lukens Steel trees, Huston said.

Huston wants the trees for the future National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum slated to be built in the city’s Lukens National Historic District. The Graystone Society, which was created in 1984 to help preserve the city’s historic architecture, is the group propelling the museum project.

On July 11, Huston and Gene DiOrio, Graystone Society vice president, traveled to the John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the last remains of the towers are being stored in an 80,000-square-foot hangar. Huston and DiOrio met with New York Port Authority officials about bringing some of the remnants back here.

"It was a very visible use of our steel," DiOrio said. "It became an emotional thing for people locally."

Of the 152 Lukens Steel trees used in the towers, only 13 remain. During site cleanup most of the remnants were sold for reuse, Huston said.

Huston and DiOrio hope to obtain three of the trees to put on display at the iron and steel museum in the works for the city’s historic district. The steel tree display would be part of a $25 million project.

"We want to honor not only what it means to go to work today, but also describe what Lukens did," Huston said.

But the New York Port Authority has not promised anything to Huston and DiOrio yet. Those in charge of a New York City memorial will have first pick over any of the items that remain, according to Steve Coleman, spokesman for the New York Port Authority.

Once 9/11 museum organizers select items for display in New York City, a system will be put into place to determine who gets the items that remain, Coleman said. Huston is on the waiting list for the items that will be left over.

But a time frame for when those on the waiting list will be addressed is unclear. Coleman said there are still issues to resolve in regards to insurance companies and legal issues. Technically, the insurance companies own the remains, Coleman said.

Huston said that if the steel trees are obtained, he hopes they can be put on display outside so that the exhibit is free to the public. However, there is some question as to how the steel would hold up outdoors, he said. Currently the pieces are being stored in a climate-controlled room where deterioration rates are being monitored, Huston said.

"Everybody is very serious about the preservation of these artifacts. These are artifacts," he said.

Construction of the World Trade Center began in 1966. The north tower opened in 1970 and the south tower opened in 1972.

If obtained, the steel trees would be part of The National Iron & Steel Museum that will use innovative technology to create interactive exhibits to help visitors understand how steel is made and the various items it is used for, such as aircrafts, rockets and submarines. The museum will also tell the story of former Lukens Steel workers, Huston said.

Chester County is the appropriate location of such a museum because at one point it held the most iron sites, Huston said.

The entire project includes the museum, Rebecca Lukens House, Terracina House, Brandywine Rolling Mill and Lukens Iron and Steel office building.

Currently, Huston is working to acquire the Rebecca Lukens House. Rebecca Lukens operated the steel mill during the 19th century. Acquiring the property is the first step in the large project, and is expected to be done this summer, Huston said.

By 2009, Huston hopes to acquire the planned museum site -- the 112-120 Mill Yard building complex, a former Lukens site that is currently owned by Mittal. Huston hopes to acquire the land just before Lukens Steel’s 200th birthday, in 2010.

Once the properties are acquired, fundraising can begin for the museum, Huston said.

In addition to preserving the history of Lukens Steel and the iron and steel industry as a whole, Huston and DiOrio see the 30,000 square foot museum as a catalyst for redevelopment in the city. The museum would create jobs and draw in tourists, DiOrio and Huston said.

"It’s a reinvestment in your community," Huston said.

In addition to the museum, there would be an additional 30,000 square feet for commercial space that could be used for a convention center, movie theater or indoor sports facility, Huston said.

Huston said he is awaiting $1 million in funding from the state capital budget, which state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th, of North Coventry, helped get appropriated. But the state still needs to release the money, Huston said. In addition, efforts are being made to obtain federal funding for the museum, Huston said.

The entire project is assisted through seed money from the Stewart Huston Charitable Trust and The Huston Foundation.

Huston said there will be a meeting about the project with the city’s Redevelopment Authority in September.

To contact staff writer Jennifer Miller, send an e-mail to jmiller@dailylocal.com.

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İDaily Local News 2007