At the edge of the ever-muddy Monongahela River (the Mon, as yinz call it), Carrie Furnace looms over us all like a stoic rustbelt queen. She’s fairly calm and quiet these days, eager to welcome visitors—but she wasn’t always that way. Built in 1907, Carrie was an iron blast furnace that produced between 1,000 to 1,250 tons of iron per day at her peak, and was Carrie operated for the better part of a century, finally closing up shop in 1982 when the going got rough for the iron and steel industry. Designated as a National Historical Landmark in 2006, Carrie Furnace is now managed by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, a nonprofit organization “committed to preserving, interpreting, and managing the historic, cultural, and natural resources related to Big Steel and its related industries,” based in Homestead, PA.
You’ve probably seen her from across the river, making her presence known, the way she tends to do with all that glorious rust. Maybe you’ve attended a workshop, a performance of King Lear, a site tour, or perhaps even danced the night away with Wiz Khalifa, The Chainsmokers, or CHVRCHES at one of the Thrival music festivals that was hosted here a couple years ago. You may also recognize Carrie Furnace as a backdrop for such Hollywood films as Concussion (Will Smith, Alec Baldwin) or Out of the Furnace (Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson). Either way, if you claim to be a Pittsburgher, you ought to know Carrie.
A few weeks ago in mid-May, I attended one of the Photo Safaris hosted by Rivers of Steel. It was a scorching hot, sun-soaked day for this time of year, with the temperature inching closer to 90 degrees every minute. But, being able to have (almost) free-roam of Carrie Furnace for nearly three hours was an urban explorer’s dream, and damn well worth it. All the photos in this post were shot during the May 2019 Photo Safari ✌
I’ve heard it said that, on average, two workers-per-day died at the Furnaces during its heyday. Now, I don’t think I believe in ghosts. However, the nice folks over at Ghosts N’at seem like they might, and they have hosted some creepy-looking ghost hunts at Carrie Furnace, citing “unexplained noises and full bodied apparitions” which “have been spotted throughout the furnace complex!” - Definitely wanna check out one of those hunts in the future!
Carrie Furnace has also become a hot spot for urban and industrial-inspired art in Pittsburgh, attracting artists from around the globe. Rivers of Steel Arts, a local non-profit, hosts all kinds of wonderful events, exhibitions, and workshops centered around re-imagining the area’s rich industrial history through the arts.
If you have a few hours to kill this summer, I highly recommend checking out Carrie Furnace. I’ve visited the site probably five times in the past couple of years, and each visit surprises me with new things to see, learn, and experience.
VISITOR TIP: Be sure to wear closed-toed shoes and bring some snacks/water.
Happy trails! ♡