Over the years, Rivers of Steel has worked to insure the preservation of a number of heritage sites to ensure future generations have a connection to our region’s industrious past.
From blocking wrecking balls and petitioning for landmark status to repairing roofs and attracting tourists, the scope of preservation work is broad.
Today, Rivers of Steel is a steward of three National Historic Landmarks in southwestern Pennsylvania: the Carrie Blast Furnaces in Swissvale and Rankin, the Bost Building in Homestead and the W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing—and one additional historic site: the historic Pump House in Munhall.
From its earliest days in the late 1980s—when it was operating as the Steel Industry Task Force—the organization that eventually became Rivers of Steel was focused on the imminent change occurring in communities that were formerly home to working mills. Not only was the culture changing (necessitating the creation of the archives), the physical landscape was transforming too. These visionaries understood that preserving a sampling of these structures could help tell the story of Big Steel in an impactful way for future generations.
This concept of industrial preservation—and the idea that at some point in the future tourists would seek out these locations—was very forward-thinking. Indeed, at the time, it had many detractors. Understandably, emotions were raw, and these places were seen as symbols of lost jobs, not historic structures that were emblematic of the incredible achievements of the industry and its workers.
Rivers of Steel’s preservation efforts led to the stewardship of four historic sites (and one 21st-century riverboat; click here if you want to hear the story of the acquisition of the Explorer).