The Steelworks Center of the West mission is to provide continuing education to the public through the preservation of historic archives, artifacts and buildings of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), and related activities leading to the industrialization of the entire Western United States.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt designated the CF&I Administrative Complex on January 13, 2021 as a National Historic Landmark for the role the company played in the development of the American West in steelmaking, coal and coke production, and industrial and labor relations in the early twentieth century. The CF&I Administrative Complex becomes the 26th National Historic Landmark in Colorado.
The Bessemer Historical Society was formed in the summer of 2000 to provide permanent care for the archival collection, artifacts and historic buildings of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I). A concerned group of citizens realized the danger of losing the Minnequa Works Office Complex, and the CF&I archival collections, to irreparable damage from neglect and lack of adequate preservation measures, or to the potential for the collections to be donated to a distant repository. In June, 2000, these community members, in collaboration with representatives from the City of Pueblo, the County of Pueblo, and the State of Colorado, created the Bessemer Historical Society (BHS), a 501(c)(3) organization, to preserve the buildings and documentary remains of CF&I.
In 2001, after raising $1.7 million, BHS purchased the historic administrative building complex and surrounding 5.7 acres of land from Oregon Steel Mills, the owners of the mill at that time. Oregon Steel officially donated the archival collection to BHS a year later. With tremendous support from the Southern Colorado community, and beyond, BHS has accomplished many goals. After the building complex was purchased and stabilized, it was listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, at the national level of significance. With an initial Save America's Treasures grant, in 2003, followed by three successive grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, nearly 6000 cubic feet of paper records have been processed, most at a very basic level, and made available for public use. In addition, nearly 100,000 photographs, over 30,000 maps and drawings, 1,200 rolls of microfilm, thousands of financial ledgers, and 228 historic 16mm films have been preserved and made accessible at basic levels. The Steelworks Museum was opened in 2007 and serves as the interpretive center for CF&I history. The Steelworks Center of the West was established in 2014 to integrate all of our museum, archives and education programs.
"The Steelworks Museum is a fascinating piece of history and I highly encourage a stop here. It chronicles the history of Steel Mills, the mines, and the company towns in the area. The exhibits are first class and while it is a small museum, it communicates and important slice of American History. It is an easy stop off of I-25 if you are passing through and you can visit the museum in less than an hour; perfect for a break from the road and a chance to really learn about the area and its people. Highly Recommended!" - via Trip Advisor, Anonymous
"The (funeral) services were very touching and the archives you helped locate were so much appreciated by the family. I gave the eulogy through the lens of the documents you found…" - via website, Anonymous
"I started as a bin man in the blast furnace in 1975, 41 years.. what a beautiful little park... the neat thing is everyone that comes through on I-25 can look over and see the original workforce and backbone that represents all of Pueblo Colorado.." - Gary St. Clair
"I remember as a kid, my grandpa worked for the CF&I. He took me to see the demo of one of the lager stacks that sat closer to Northern. It's one of the coolest memories I had with my gramps as a child, one that I remember like it was yesterday." - Mark Lopez
"I think that my involvement with the Steelworks Center - from the field schools and various research trips to the archives - was instrumental in my being promoted to professor at my institution. One of the reviewers of my work commented on how my writing was making accessible to readers information not known or understood. My involvement has also provided me with a venue to share with and teach students about historical, archival research." -Dr. Lynn Burlbaw. Texas A&M University
"I like being a part of an organization that is a nationwide draw in terms of research and archives. I believe there is potential for the Steelworks Center to be viewed with great respect in nationwide circles, possibly even more so than it is appreciated locally." -Douglas Gradisar, Board Member