Abandoned Martin Tower – Bethlehem, PA – 1/15/17

Disclaimer:  I do not promote trespassing on grounds that is off limits to the public.  If you wish to visit an abandoned place, for your safety, please reach out to the property owners to gain access.  If you don’t, I am not held accountable for the fines or injuries that may occur.

A few years ago I was able to visit abandoned Martin Tower.  Not just the grounds, but the inside, well, just the first floor.  Due to asbestos and other security issues, the instameet organizers could only allow so much access.  For those photos please click here

Fast forward and I was given an opportunity I never thought I’d get.  First I want to say this was completely legal, don’t get any ideas.  Second, I will not disclose my resources.  It probably won’t matter anyways, because at the time of this writing Martin Tower will be at the beginning stages of being gutted.  It may be safe to say that these photos may be evidence of the last time we see the inside of Martin Tower this way.

When I was asked if I wanted to photograph Martin Tower, my reply was “yes, yes, yes, yes!!”  I didn’t ask questions, I was photographing a concert at the time and was just excited to be able to be on the property again soon.  My excitement didn’t stop and also got in the way.  Due to my excitement, I wasn’t prepared for my visit.  Armed with only my camera and a few lens, I didn’t pack a tripod or external light.  In my mind, I thought I was only going to have the same access that I had last time.  I was dead wrong.

I was given access to each floor.  Obviously, we didn’t have all the time in the world, and we had to stay together as a group.  We started in the basement and worked our way up.  Seeing the employee car wash was the first thing I saw and right away I thought, am I really here?  My excitement was overwhelming to the point where my photos suffered.  I am my worst critic, but for these photos I didn’t take my time and they aren’t my best work.  However, it’s what gives them their charm.  It shows how real it was to be inside, and how dark too.

As we worked our way up we only stopped on a few floors.  Martin Tower is 21 floors, and even though the elevator is still in the best condition, there was no power.  Walking up was the only way.  For the curious, hate to break it to you, but every floor is pretty much the same.  There are no desks, computers, filing cabinets, etc in the office.  This isn’t like other abandoned buildings.  Besides the basement, the entire building has already been cleared of everything.  It is practically a hollow shell.  As for the basement, see photos, it looked like the workers just left for the day.  Tools, blue prints, supplies, papers, were all left behind.

I didn’t take many photos of the floors because like I said I was excited, they were similar, and I also wanted to hear more about the building from our guide.  Little facts, I didn’t know, especially around the higher ups.  Which brings me to the 21st floor.  Wool carpet, Bethlehem Steel logo door knobs, full on kitchen, bigger bathroom than my apartment’s, the higher ups at Bethlehem Steel spared no expense when designing their floor.  A wave of history rushed passed me.  Walking in the boardroom where so many decisions were made and most likely the final decision to close down Bethlehem Steel for good was overwhelming.  The power this company had and the pride the employees had for it was still present in these walls.  Looking out the windows from the 21st floor, you could only imagine how many others thought from here you feel as if you own the city.

We proceed to make our way to the roof.  It was possible we didn’t have a key, but to our luck we did.  I don’t have a bucket list, never have, but there are a few things I want to see.  Northern Lights being one and getting on the roof of Martin Tower is another.  You may be thinking, well that second one is pretty lame, there are other buildings higher.  This is true, and I’d like to climb those, but when growing up in Bethlehem I always thought about getting on the roof of Martin Tower and Hotel Bethlehem.  Why?  Because I want to see the vantage point.  I want to see what it looks like to overlook the city that raised me.  Walking on the roof, my first thought was this better hold, after that thought I went straight to the edge and just kept walking along it.  I looked up, down, left, right and just soaked it all in.  29 years and I finally made it up here.  A truly surreal experience.

As it got later we made our way down the stairs to the connector that brought us to the barber shop and general store.  This then brought us to the Annex building where I got to see the theater room again which I haven’t seen since my field trip in Nitschmann.  The screen and technology was very much outdated, but the room kept up nicely surprisingly.  After that we said our goodbyes and left Martin Tower in hopes it isn’t the last time.

So now what?  During the time of this writing, a lot has happened with Martin Tower.  This is what we know thus far.  This is also public information.  The owners are finally started work on the interior part of the tower.  As of right now the future of the building is in the air, but before anything can be decided, the asbestos and any other harmful materials need to be rid of.  This will take several months, from there it is in the hands of the owners and city as to what the next course of action is.  If Martin Tower is to be saved, the idea is to turn it into apartments and build shops around it.  If this happens, this will be a very unique and one of a kind operation.  If all falls through then we will see Martin Tower knocked down.  What will go up is anyone’s guess.  As for the Annex, Learning Center, and the glass machine room building, their time is up.  These buildings will be destroyed in the coming months.  From my understanding there is no need for them, logically you can’t do anything with them.

There are some in the city of Bethlehem that think Martin Tower should be saved, others think it is an eyesore and should be knocked down.  I’ve read comments about the building on local paper websites where readers say why doesn’t this company buy it, or this or this or it’s all a game and these people are corrupt, etc etc.  The truth is you don’t know.  Also it isn’t easy.  The cost of fixing this building is a lot, and I mean a lot.  In my eyes, the owners are doing the best they can to see if it can be saved.  You have to remember it is a business and as much as it is cool to see the Martin Tower anywhere in Bethlehem, it cost money to keep this property stable.  I explore a lot of abandoned places and I’ve seen some of my favorites get taken down like Greystone Asylum, Overbrook Asylum, and now Buck Hill Inn.  I’d hate to see Martin Tower go, but I can live knowing that the powers at hand are trying.  Those other places, some weren’t even given the chance.  Some will say nothing last forever, and I personally hate that saying.  Everything lasts forever.  In our hearts and memories.  They never go away and if something like Martin Tower does we still have the memories, writings, and photos.  I am grateful I got to see the inside of this historic building, and I know others would love to, I just hope these photos can do some sort of justice.

5 thoughts on “Abandoned Martin Tower – Bethlehem, PA – 1/15/17

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing the photos of Martin Tower! Did see the inside years ago when it first opened! Hope it can be saved!

    Eunice Rankin
    Bethlehem, PA

  2. Excuse me, but when you were on the roof did you happen to see a grappling hook? I know someone who said they managed to get it up there. By the way, these pictures are amazing and you have to more like this! Maybe your contacts could let you do Bethlehem Steel!

  3. Found your blog through a Morning Call article. I worked on the 8th floor of Martin Tower from late 2000 to early 2002, with D&B. I stood at the Little League fields on Schoenersville Road yesterday and watched it come down. The round staircase was always my favorite and I am so grateful to have stumbled across these images! I will miss it.

    1. That is good to hear! The staircase was always my favorite memory of the place when I went in during my Middle School visit to the theater. I myself watched yesterday from where I used to live on 2nd ave, just felt fitting to do from where I always saw it. It will be missed, and I completely understand why people who worked there are sad to see it go. When you work somewhere for 8 hours a day for many years the place to becomes a home, and to see a home be there no more is a terrible feeling.

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