The Ironton Cement Company began in 1901 by Samuel Brady Steece. S.B. Steece was a Civil War veteran (buried in Woodland Cemetery), one of the first graduates of Ironton Schools, and was married to Ella Willard (daughter of James Willard – proprietor of Buckhorn Furnace).
Before founding Ironton Cement, Brady Steece organized the Crystal Ice Company, which was located at 7th and Railroad Streets in Ironton.
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Photos courtesy Don Delawder
The Ironton Portland Cement Company became Alpha Portland Cement in 1920 and announced it would permanently close on August 20, 1970.
THE CEMENT PLANT
“Cement Loaded Loose in Huge Barges By Pipe Line”
Product Transferred From Cars to Barges By Suction
Ironton Tribune, 26 August 1932, Friday, Page 12
Submitted by Peggy A. Wells
Cement, purchased from the local Alpha Portland plant by the Dravo Construction Company, is being loaded in novel and modern fashion. Cement is delivered f. o. b. barge and under the present system of operation delivery is being made more rapidly and more economically than ever before in the history of the plant.
At the start, loose cement is fed into a box car from the plant bins, thus eliminating the use of sacks. The railroad car is switched to the Belfont Steel and Wire Company switch at the loading dock below Etna street and modern methods have replaced the former system of lowering cement by a crane, for hand loading in barges.
A long hose, approximately four inches in diameter, is run from the box car at the top of the grade, over a trestle and to the barge being loaded. A suction machine similar in operation to a carpet sweeper, is operated in the box car. The loose cement is picked up and forced through the hose into the barge bins.
The barge, property of the Dravo company is designed specially for cement storage purposes, with enclosed, waterproof top and sealed hatches. The average box car is loaded with cement equivalent to 250 barrels and on one occasion the large barge was loaded with 2800 barrels, or with more than 10 car loads of cement. After being filled the barges are sealed, pushed to the point of operation and a similar suction machine used for unloading the product direct in the mixing machines.
At the present time the Dravo company is working on a dam in the Kanawha river. It has its own tug and barges are being alternated between the two points. While one is being unloaded at the work site, the other is being filled here.
“Men Recalled to Solvay Plant; Cement Co. Will Increase Output In Sept. Decided Upturn Shown By Local Industries”
Ironton Tribune, 20 March 1932, Sunday, Page 8
The second block of ovens at the plant of the Ironton By Products Coke Company was placed in operation this morning, with a group of approximately forty workers being called back to their jobs. Orders assure an extended run, it is understood.
The newest block of ovens at the plant has been in operation for some time and this morning’s resumption of the second block means that the plant is at capacity operation.
Another bright spot on Ironton’s business horizon was announcement by the Alpha Portland Cement Company that the local cement plant will also go on full operation on or about the first of September. Employees have been working on a part-time basis for some time but next month will receive full pay. An extended period of operation also seems assured there.
Several hundred workers are to return to their jobs at the Russell C. & O. terminal in early September and part of the force at the Carlyle-Labold plant in Coal Grove has been recalled and men are now engaged.
It has also been indicated that additional women are to be employed at the Reade shirt plant on north Second street, a group of twenty now being trained there.
“Alpha Portland Cement is Closing Down Ironton Plant – 175 Affected.”
Ironton Tribune, Thursday, August 20, 1970
The Alpha Portland Cement Co. announced this morning at a press conference in Ashland that it is closing down its Ironton plant which now employes about 175 people.
The company, in making the announcement, sai the shut down of the Ironton facility is part of a program where facilities that don’t have a satisfactory profit potential are being closed.
A spokesman for the company said there has been no decision made about whether any office employees or other plant personnel with be transferred to other Alpha Portland plants. He said they will start the phasing out immediately and expect the plant to be completely closed by the end of the year.
The spokesman said Alpha Portland will continue to own the property and will continue to pay taxes on the land, which will amount to about $57,000 annually. He said the plant’s most productive years were in the late 1950’s.
The plant was constructed in 1901 and has been the object in recent years of public criticism because of air pollution. William A. Brobston, company president, said that the plants of the Ironton genertion “cannot compete with the large modern plants of today and, unpleasant as it may be to close down what took so many years to develop, for the good of all our employees and our stockholders, we must direct our energies and sources toward the areas in which Alpha’s future lies.”
The company said terminating operations at “unprofitable” facilities “is an essential step in improving the profitability of Alpha’s cement division. Releasing the working capital committed to these plants permits management to move ahead with the expansion of its profitable plants and to more effectively managed those areas of high profit potential.”
Alpha Portland purchased the Ironton plant in 1920. Earlier this year it announced the closing of the plants in LaSalle, Illinois, and the closing of distribution terminals in Chicago, New Orleans and Westboro, Mass. The company operates six other plants.”