Republic Steel

In 1886, Pioneer Mining & Manufacturing Company founder, David Thomas, purchased 2,000 acres near Village Creek for $4 per acre. Along with access to water, the property included its own limestone, ore, and coal deposits which made it ideal for iron making. He built a massive complex of iron furnaces known as the Thomas Furnaces.

Republic Steel
The remaining by-products plant was constructed in 1925 to replace Republic Steel’s wasteful beehive coke batteries.

Workers settled into a company town known as Thomas, named after Pioneer Mining’s founder. Those living outside of the company-controlled village settled nearby in East Thomas. In 1898, Republic Iron & Steel Company purchased an option on Pioneer Company’s capital stock and exercised it the following year, acquiring the Thomas Furnaces complex. By 1902, Republic Steel was capable of producing 250 tons per day.

Republic Steel
Republic Steel modernized the Thomas coke works plant for the last time in 1952.

The furnace operation thrived through the early 1900s. A new battery of Koppers-Becker coke ovens were installed in October 1925. In 1930, the Republic Steel Corporation acquired all of the Republic Iron & Steel Company’s properties and used the iron furnaces at the Thomas plant to also supply the steel plant in Alabama City. During its peak, as many as 1,800 employees worked at the Thomas plant.

Republic Steel
Robin Wade, Sr. founded the R.A. Wade Company in 1932 and operates the stone quarry in and around Republic Steel’s Thomas plant.

Republic Steel

Republic Steel
A control room overlooks the Koppers-Becker coke ovens.
Republic Steel
Today, the Republic Steel coke works remain one of the most well-preserved steelworks in Alabama.

Republic SteelRepublic Steel remained prosperous until the 1970s. Increasing labor costs, foreign imports, and other factors caused severe stress across the steel industry. The Thomas furnaces were shut down in 1971. The R.A. Wade Company merged into Wade Sand & Gravel Company, Inc. and purchased the closed Republic Steel. Artists from all over the United States and Europe have worked at the site to produce art that is on permanent display at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Today, the quarry around Republic Steel still mines dolomite and limestone for use in construction materials.

Republic Steel
The administration offices of Republic Steel closed a decade after the furnaces were shut down.
Republic Steel
In 1993, the owner of Republic Steel began offering the use of the steel complex to visiting artists.

Republic Steel 



13 Replies to “Republic Steel”

    1. Yes Ron you are absolutely correct my Uncle Warren Taylor was a supervisor at the Bethlehem steel plant in Buffalo NY. He told my Aunt the Japanese were visiting the plant. Well she told him they would take his job, they copied the process and produced it cheaper and poorer quality and the Lackawanna plant and all the jobs are gone. If we went to war today where would we get the steel to build the weapons? Maybe we need to have lower wages and more jobs.


  1. Thanks for sharing the awesome pictures and history. Can’t believe I didn’t know this was still around. Did you receive special permission to visit? If I show up on a Sunday to explore will I be asked to leave?

    Liked by 1 person

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