Laclede Steel

Sprawling along the base of the bluffs, in a low-lying wedge of land between Alton and the Wood River channel, are the newly resuscitated mills of Laclede Steel (now Alton Steel). Named after Pierre Lacléde, the French furtrader and one of the founding fathers of the city of St Louis, the surname Laclede can be found gracing countless institutional, commercial, and civic ventures in the region. From the city and (unaffiliated) county of Laclede, toan elementary school, to a prominent riverfront landing, to the name of the regional gas utility in the St.Louis metro area, Lacléde has given his name to multifarious offspring. Whatis particularly ironic isthat he decidedly did not give his name to his four actual children who were birthed by his common-law wife—and who took the name of her former estranged husband for religious reasons.

Laclede (Alton) Steel currently produces a range of SBQ (special bar quality) steels.Itwas one of the many smaller steel mills contracted for the 1967 construction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. As a way to secure more favorable pricing, this particular commission was one of the first to employ the tactic wherebya largejob is broken into smaller bid packages negotiated discretely with smaller steel makers. The result was to cutout the controlled pricing that steel giants like US Steel and Bethlehem would charge to supply the whole package.

More prosaically, Alton Steel workers werefeatured in a 2008 episodeof Dirty Jobs melting down scrapped river barges into what isdescribedon the show as “barge soup.” With8,000 megawatt (MW) capacity furnaces heating the steel to 3,000 degrees, the mill primarily runs at night, when electricity in the region costs half what it does during the day.