One of the best activities of the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists meetup in Pittsburgh was our a 2-hour tour of the Carrie Furnace Blast site on Sunday, April 10th. The Carrie site was an extensive complex of blast furnaces for the manufacture of iron for Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Works (more on Homestead later).
In 1995, as demolition was just beginning on the furnace, In 1996 the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area was created by Congress to preserve and interpret Pittsburgh’s steel industry. The site, which only has one remaining intact blast furnace, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
An interesting characteristic of the Carrie Furnace site is the incorporation of public art. In the mid 1990’s, a group of artists snuck into the site and worked for almost a year on the beloved Carrie Furnace Deer. There is also extensive amounts of graffiti art throughout the site. Rivers of Steel has chosen to embrace previous artistic endeavors on the site, and has started the new program called Rivers of Steel Arts that supports the interpretation of local history and encourages the re-imagining of familiar places.
In addition to honoring our industrial heritage and local guerrilla art, Rivers of Steel is continuing the Pittsburgh tradition of stopping at a local pub for a beer after leaving a shift at the mill. It hosts an event called Happy Hours with Carrie on the first Wednesday of every month. A ticket purchased for $20 in advance gets you a 1-hour tour of the Furnace, and one beer at the featured bar after the tour. And the best news – tour guides will be on hand at the bars to have a pint with you! (Or perhaps Tom’s favorite – an Imp & Iron.)
Read on for more info on some of our favorite places that Rivers of Steel is partnering with for Happy Hour with Carrie!
Voodoo Brewery – Homestead, PA / May 4 & August 3
Homestead, PA is located just outside the Pittsburgh City limits on the Monongahela River. The steel mill town is perhaps best known for the 1892 Homestead Strike, one of the most important events in the history of labor relations in the United States (This fun fact has been brought to you by Tour Guide Tom. Thanks, Tom!)
The Waterfront shopping mall replaced the Homestead Works on the Monongahela River in 1999, which has helped the borough regain a robust tax base after dwindling from a population of 20,000 people in 1920 to just 3,165 people in 2010. The outdoor shopping mall with national chain stores and restaurants and a large movie complex has attracted people from all over Pittsburgh to the area for almost two decades.
Despite the localized success of the Waterfront shopping mall, however, the development did little to attract people to the nearby Homestead business district, which is located just over a bordering railroad track from the shopping complex. Enter local businesses to the rescue! Some of these include the hugely successful (but now relocated) Smoke Barbecue Taqueria, Blue Dust Gastropub, and Voodoo Brewery.
Voodoo Brewery opened in early 2015. The Meadville-based brewery purchased a firehouse from the Borough just off its main drag that had been vacant for 25 years. The brew house not only serves thirsty shoppers from the Waterfront shopping mall, but is a big attraction for bicyclists from Pittsburgh. In fact, a bike ride from downtown Pittsburgh to Homestead is just 45 minutes along the Great Allegheny Passage. The Happy Hour with Carrie on August 3 will be held at Voodoo and is co-hosted by the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh!
The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company – Braddock, PA / June 1 & September 7
Braddock sits just outside the City of Pittsburgh in the Mon Valley. While Mon Valley towns like Braddock haven’t seen the kind of renaissance that has occurred in places within Pittsburgh city limits (read more about the sometimes disjointed development in Pittsburgh here), there is much potential for a resurgence. Businesses like the Brew Gentlemen and Studebaker Metals have chosen to locate their business along the main corridor, Braddock Avenue. There are many champions in the Braddock neighborhood, from the local block watch members up to Mayor Fetterman, who are all working to bring investment to Braddock while improving the lives of current residents.
Brew Gentlemen was founded by two graduating Carnegie Mellon University students who decided that since they weren’t really into their chosen majors, they’d pursue their other passion: brewing beer! (This fun fact has also been brought to you by Tour Guide Tom. Thanks, Tom!)
If you live near Pittsburgh or plan on traveling here this summer, be sure to drop in for a Happy Hour with Carrie.