Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area

Blast furnace towers among trees
View of the Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Quick Facts

Location:
The southwestern Pennsylvania counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington, and Westmoreland.
Significance:
From 1875 to 1980, southwestern Pennsylvania was the Steel Making Capital of the World, producing the steel for some of America's greatest icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. During World War I and II, its steel workers carried the nation's defense on their backs, producing more steel, armor and armaments in a single year than entire countries. While many of the region's legendary mill sites have been dismantled, and decades have passed since the mills belched fire and smoke over Pittsburgh's skyline, the enormity of the region's steel-making contributions and its historical significance to the nation demand its story be told and its sites preserved.
Designation:
National Heritage Area
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
Yes

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in southwestern Pennsylvania reveals how one region, in a sustained and thunderous blast of innovation, ambition and fire, forever changed America and its place in the world. It is the story of the industrialists and the workers who pushed an infant industry to it ultimate limits and in doing so pushed the world into the Age of Steel. Rivers of Steel NHA celebrates the region's industrial history, the landscape that fueled it, and the hardworking people who made it possible, linking the communities of the region through their shared cultural and industrial heritage. 

Created over eons, as water carved away layers of the Allegheny Plateau, southwestern Pennsylvania’s hilly topography set the stage for entrepreneurs. Over time, this land and the local economy continued to transform. Colonial agriculture gave way to boat building and river trade. Business shifted from commerce to industry, making use of the region’s natural resources for glassmaking, coal mining, and small scale iron production, which laid the groundwork for the “Big Steel” era of the 20th century. Industries waxed and waned – each innovating and building upon the one that preceded it – before evolving into today’s dynamic landscape.

The eight-county region of Rivers of Steel NHA is a National Heritage Area and one of 12 state-desigated Heritage Areas in Pennsylvania. It is managed by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation, a nonprofit that works in partnership with the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Through public-private partnerships, Rivers of Steel supports heritage conservation, heritage tourism, and outdoor recreation as a means to foster economic redevelopment and enhance cultural engagement.

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area includes the following historic sites:

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area also includes the following NPS units:

Last updated: July 3, 2019