Preserving Pennsylania: A Journey Through the Last 20 Years

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition.  It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

First up…

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered  historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost,  having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.


1992 — Carrie Furnaces, Allegheny County


In 1900, Andrew Carnegie built a physical link across the Monongahela River between the
Carrie Furnaces and the Homestead Steel Works, creating one of the largest steel plants in the country. Built in 1906-1907, Carrie Furnaces 6 and 7 are the only remaining pre-World War II era blast furnaces in Pittsburgh. The furnaces are exceptionally significant, rare examples of a once common type of American iron production system. They also reflect advances in iron-making technology during the first half of the 20th century, which was critical to the development of mass-production in the highly mechanized American steel industry. The region’s steel industry collapsed in the 1970s, and many facilities, including U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, closed. Subsequently, much of the facility was demolished.

The surviving tall, cylindrical blast furnace stacks represent a small but important component of the modern, integrated blast furnace plant. Recognizing the significance of these surviving industrial elements, individuals, organizations and municipalities have been working hard for 20 years to preserve the Carrie Furnaces. In 2005, Allegheny County acquired the Carrie Furnace property, and in 2006, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

After extensive planning, the property is undergoing a program of selective demolition
and restoration to make the site safe and suitable for public visitation, as well as a $78 million stabilization and renovation that will allow visitors to climb a series of walkways around these huge industrial furnaces and see them up close. This effort is central to a $500 million brownfield restoration project being led by Allegheny County. Project partners, including the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (Rivers of Steel) and the Steel Industry Heritage Council, among others, hope to preserve the remaining industrial structures as one of the focal points of the proposed Homestead Works National Park; multi-use light commercial, office and residential development will occur around
the historic landmark. In the meantime, Rivers of Steel is offering tours of the Carrie Furnaces property from April through October.