Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area
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 boatbuilding 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 Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area celebrates the region’s industrial history, the landscape that fueled it, and the hardworking men and women who made it possible, linking its communities through their shared cultural and industrial heritage.
The eight-county Heritage Area represents the Pittsburgh Industrial District and includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is one of 55 National Heritage Areas and one of 12 State Heritage Areas.
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 these public-private partnerships, Rivers of Steel supports heritage tourism, creative placemaking, outdoor recreation, and community partnerships as means to foster economic redevelopment and enhance cultural engagement. Rivers of Steel works with communities, small businesses and nonprofits throughout the region to showcase artistry and innovation of our region’s rich heritage.
Explore this area’s website for information, events, and more.
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(Photo: Pittsburgh, PA)
Things to See and Do
Rivers of Steel Sites
Rivers of Steel: Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark
801 Carrie Furnace Blvd., Rankin, PA 15104
A remnant of the once massive, legendary U.S. Steel Homestead Steel Works, the Carrie Blast Furnaces are a vestige of Pittsburgh’s 20th-century domination of the steel industry. Towering 92 feet over the Monongahela River, constructed of 2.5″ thick steel plate and lined with refractory brick, Carrie Furnaces #6 and #7 are extremely rare examples of pre-World War II iron-making technology. Since the collapse of the region’s steel industry in the 1970s and 1980s, these are the only non-operative blast furnaces in the region that remain. Visitors can connect with Pittsburgh’s steel industry heritage on a guided Industrial Tour, highlighting the site’s iron-making technology, its workers, and their culture. Dive deeper into the story on an Arts & Ground Tour, an inside look at how the post-industrial site has become a creative muse for a variety of creative artists. Rivers of Steel also offers tours of the onsite Iron Garden, exploring how nature has reclaimed a post-industrial landscape in a wild way. There are dozens of events and workshops at the Carrie Blast Furnaces each season. Check the event calendar to see what’s happening during your visit!
Rivers of Steel’s Explorer Riverboat – PGH 101 Sightseeing Cruise
Rivers of Steel Dock, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Docked on Pittsburgh’s North Shore near the headwaters of the Ohio River, the 94-foot Explorer riverboat was designed and built to LEED environmental standards Rivers of Steel offers a 90-minute public sightseeing cruise, PGH 101: An Intro to Innovation, where passengers discover how Pittsburgh’s landscape, its wealth of natural resources, and the character of its residents have helped to shape the dynamic city it is today. An excursion on Explorer offers unparalleled opportunities to become immersed in Pittsburgh’s rich history while being surrounded by its natural beauty. All proceeds from the PGH 101: An Intro to Innovation sightseeing tours help to underwrite Rivers of Steel’s STEM-based education programs for students throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
Rivers of Steel Visitor Center at The Bost Building National Historic Landmark
623 E. 8th Avenue, Homestead, PA 15120
Built in 1892 as a hotel for the rapidly growing worker’s ward of Homestead, the Bost Building was at the center of American labor history’s most dramatic episodes – the Homestead Lockout and Strike. This National Historic Landmark underwent a $4 million renovation and in 2002 opened its doors as the visitor’s center for the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. The Bost Building includes an exhibit space dedicated to the American Worker, as well as offices for the Heritage Area.
Historic Pump House
880 East Waterfront Drive, Munhall, PA 15120
Situated just across the Monongahela River from in the Carrie Blast Furnaces, the Pump House was once part of the U.S. Steel Homestead Steel Works. The Pump House dates back to 1892 when it was built by the Carnegie Steel Company. That same year it was the site of the Battle of Homestead, a defining moment in the nation’s labor history. Today, the building and its adjacent water tower help to interpret the tumultuous events of 1892, as well as to highlight the illustrious steel-making legacy of the region. There are interpretive panels and meditative labyrinth on the grounds of the Pump House. he Historic Pump House location is also a trailhead of the Great Allegheny Passage which encompasses the Steel Valley Trail in the Mon Valley.
W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop
116 Water Street, Rices Landing, PA 15357
Step back in time to the early 1900s and discover the artistry of handcrafted manufacturing. The W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop is a prime example of America’s industrial heritage. William A. Young, owner and operator of the business built the Machine Shop in 1900 with lumber from the family farm. In 1908, the shop expanded to include the foundry. The other major change to the shop occurred in 1928 when it was electrified. When it closed in 1965, the building was locked and all of its tools and equipment were left in place—perfectly preserving its line shaft driven, 25-machine network for future generations. Visitors tour the blacksmith shop, pattern shop, hardware store, and foundry—and marvel as the machines are switched on during a live demonstration of this turn-of-the-last century technology. The Machine Shop is open most Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Call Bly before you go to confirm availability at 724-710-4898.
West Overton Village
109 West Overton Road, Scottdale, PA 15683
From the original Old Overholt Whiskey distillery to the birthplace of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, learn the fascinating history behind West Overton Village & Museums. The only intact-pre-Civil War Industrial village in Pennsylvania, West Overton is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a stop on the American Whiskey Trail. Visitors can take guided tours of the Overholt Homestead and see how the village represents the transformation of American culture from an agrarian society to an Industrial society.
The Frick Pittsburgh
7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208
Experience the culture and refinement of the Gilded Age at The Frick Pittsburgh where visitors can tour Clayton, the historic home of the Henry Clay Frick family; see magnificent art exhibitions and a vast collection of old-fashioned cars and carriages; take part in educational programs and concerts; enjoy fine dining; and stroll through 5.5 acres of lush gardens. Clayton was the home of the Frick family from 1882 to 1905, and this meticulously restored 23-room mansion is one of the best-preserved Gilded Age mansions in America with most furniture, clothing, decor and personal items being original to the home. The Frick Art Museum onsite houses a collection of European masterpieces, with strengths in French 18th-century painting and decorative arts, early Italian Renaissance painting, Renaissance and Baroque bronzes, and extraordinary Chinese porcelains.
Pittsburgh Glass Center
5472 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
The Pittsburgh Glass Center is a nonprofit, public access school, gallery and state-of-the-art glass studio dedicated to teaching, creating and promoting glass art. World-renowned glass artists come to the facility to make studio glass art, and people interested in learning about glass, take classes, explore the glass gallery and watch live hot glass demonstrations. Long before it became known as the Steel City, Pittsburgh was actually known as “America’s Glass City,” with the region’s first two glass factories opening in 1797. By 1920, the Pittsburgh region produced 80% of the nation’s glass.
David Bradford House
175 S. Main Street, Washington, PA 15301
The David Bradford House, a National Historic Landmark built in 1788, was home to the leader of the Whiskey Rebellion, the first domestic challenge to the new American government. The mission of the Bradford House Historical Association is to preserve and promote the history and heritage of the David Bradford House and Museum and to educate the public on the role of David Bradford and the Whiskey Rebellion in shaping American history.
Point State Park/Fort Pitt
101 Commonwealth Pl # 1, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Point State Park, located at the confluence of three rivers, is at the tip of Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle,” commemorates and preserves the strategic and historic heritage of the area during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
Point State Park is a National Historic Landmark. DCNR works in collaboration with the Heinz History Center and the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution to interpret the history of the Forks of the Ohio at The Fort Pitt Museum.
Western Pennsylvania PA 15213
This trail is a driving route through western Pennsylvania. Traversing modern highways, the route commemorates young George Washington’s first military and diplomatic venture in the Fall and Winter 1753 – 1754, the months leading up to the French and Indian War.
49 E. Maiden Street, Washington, PA 15301
The LeMoyne House, a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1812, and was a center of antislavery activity in southwestern Pennsylvania from the 1830s through the end of slavery. Dr. F. Julius LeMoyne (1798-1879), the son of a Parisian doctor who immigrated to the United States, was born in Washington, PA, and studied medicine at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. In 1834, LeMoyne joined the Washington Anti-Slavery Society and was the organization’s president from 1835 to 1837, after which he was commissioned by the American Anti-Slavery Society to be its regional agent. LeMoyne, along with his children and wife Madelaine, were active in the Underground Railroad. The tightly knit free black communities in southwest Pennsylvania helped slaves escape and developed an operational network that white antislavery activists, such as LeMoyne, joined. In his activism and philosophy, LeMoyne represents the mainstream of antislavery activity in the United States before 1850 and is typical of the middle-class Americans of the antebellum period who became caught up in the antislavery debate.
1197 West Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
The Duquesne Incline is one of those which follows very closely the tracks of an early coal hoist. At the time of its public opening, it was one of four inclined planes serving the summit of Coal Hill, which later came to be known as Mount Washington.
3339 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Roberto Clemente was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954 and rose to become the greatest baseball player of his time. During this period, the struggle for social justice had reached every part of our country, and every ballpark. He and many other athletes had to bear the burdens of racial and cultural prejudices, no matter what their abilities were on the field.In his 18-year career, he received every possible award given in Major League Baseball. Off the field, he built a reputation as a humanitarian, with a passion to help children through sports. Today he is as well known for his passion for helping others as he is for his passion for baseball. Housed in historic Engine House 25, The Clemente Museum showcases the world’s largest exhibit collection of baseball artifacts, works of art, literature, photographs, memorabilia, and related materials which focus on Roberto Clemente, hist teammates, his personal life, and his humanitarian causes.
Cemetery of the Alleghenies
1158 Morgan Road, Bridgeville, PA 15017
There are more than 323,000 veterans living in western Pennsylvania; the 292-acre national cemetery will serve the veterans and their families well into the next century. The cemetery is located approximately 20 miles southwest of downtown Pittsburgh. Prior to the development of the National Cemetery, the site was continually farmed since the 1800s, and the region was the flash point of the historic Whisky Rebellion of 1794. Burials at the National Cemetery began in August 2005 with the formal dedication taking place on October 9, 2005.
The Maridon Museum
322 North McKean Street, Butler, PA 16001
The Maridon is the only museum in the Western Pennsylvania region with a specific focus on Asian Art and Culture coupled with German Meissen porcelain. The four galleries feature ornate jade and ivory sculptures, landscapes painted on silk made in the mid-seventeenth century, depictions of daily life in Asian culture, and artistic tributes to emperors and legends. Meissen collectors will appreciate the extent of the porcelain figures on display at The Maridon, but even casual visitors will enjoy the wit, whimsy and sentiment they portray.
Historic Harmony/Harmony Museum
218 Mercer Street, Harmony, PA 16037
Pennsylvania’s first National Historic Landmark District outside Philadelphia, the town of Harmony was founded in 1804, and has more than 250 years of remarkable history. A young George Washington nearly died near present-day Harmony during a mission to find French forts built on land claimed by England. Harmony was so named because it was the first home of the communal Harmony Society. The Harmony Museum captures this and more history, including that of Menonites who settled in the area around 1815. The quaint, historic town of Harmony has German influences and boasts antiques/crafts shopping, dining, accommodations, other historic sites and state parks nearby.
Greene River Trail
Northern Trail Head: designated trail parking lot near Greene Cove Marina at 1590 N 88 Rd., Clarksville, PA 15322 | Rices Landing Trail Entrance: designated trail parking lot located near Rices Landing United Methodist Church at 125 Main St., Rices Landing, PA 15357
The beautiful Greene River Trail parallels the Monongahela River as it winds through the coal mining region of Greene County. The 5.1- mile trail starts in Millsboro at the Greene Cove Yacht Club trailhead in Jefferson Township. From there, the trail runs south along the river through a stretch of peaceful, scenic woodlands. The surface has smooth crushed gravel to accommodate, walkers, joggers, and bikers.
Great Allegheny Passage
Trail spans 150 miles between Cumberland, MD, and Pittsburgh, PA
The 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage soars over valleys, snakes around mountains, and skirts alongside three rivers (the Casselman, Youghiogheny, and Monongaleha) on its nearly level path. Cyclists pass through the Cumberland Narrows, cross the Mason-Dixon Line, top the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,392’, weave through the breathtaking Laurel Highlands, wind their way through 19,052-acre Ohiopyle State Park, journey through the region’s coke, coal, mining, and steel-making corridor, and end at Pittsburgh’s majestic Point State Park. At the Cumberland, MD, terminus of the GAP Trail, it connects with the C & O Canal Towpath, which leads all the way to Washington, D.C. The Great Allegheny Passage traces America’s westward expansion through a chain of cyclist-friendly trail towns, each with easy access to trailheads, restaurants, lodging, camping, and bike shops.
Old Economy Village
270 Sixteenth St., Ambridge, PA 15003
Old Economy Village, a National Historic Landmark, tells the story of the Harmony Society, one of the oldest and most successful religious communal groups of the nineteenth century. The Society sought to create a utopia inhabited by German Lutheran separatists who subscribed to the mystical religious teachings of their leader George Rapp (1757-1847). In Economy, they waited for the second coming of the Messiah.
The Ruins Project, by Sager Mosaics
549 River Rd., Perryopolis, PA 15473
The Ruins Project is a long-term mosaic art installation amidst the ruins of a former coal mine in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Located on the Great Allegheny Passage, this outdoor mosaic museum attracts artists, students, and travelers from all over the world. The walls and rooms of The Ruins represent the rebirth of abandoned American coal country into a spiritual and artistic pilgrimage and destination for adventure seekers and lovers of art and history. It was created by and is cared for by Rachel Sager, a southwestern Pennsylvania native whose contemporary mosaic fine art is internationally exhibited and awarded. The Ruins sits on mile marker 104 of the Great Allegheny Passage.
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
By encouraging everyone to participate in outdoor recreational activities, Venture Outdoors promotes the Pittsburgh region’s unique natural amenities, highlights its excellent quality of life, fosters a greater appreciation for the environment, inspires an active lifestyle and creates a shared sense of community. You’ll find Venture Outdoors leading bike rides, hikes, kayaking trips, and many more kinds of outdoor activities – including Kayak Pittsburgh, which offers kayak rentals in downtown Pittsburgh, on North Park Lake, and at Aspinwall Riverfront.
Pennsylvania Trolley Museum
1 Museum Road, Washington, PA 15301
The streetcar, or “trolley,” played a vital role in the growth of 20th century American cities. Thanks to its high-speed, efficient transportation, people could live much farther from their work than if they had to walk or rely on horse-drawn cars. As a result, cities expanded along the streetcar routes built out from their centers. Many of today’s thriving suburban communities owe their existence to the streetcar.
Visitors at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum take a ride into the past – not only by enjoying the exhibits and vast collection of historic trolley cars, but on a 4-mile scenic roundtrip ride aboard one of the museum’s restored streetcars.
4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260
The Nationality Rooms are located in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story building that is the second-tallest educational building in the world. Commissioned in 1921 when the city was richly populated with first-generation immigrant families, the Cathedral of Learning was a way for the University of Pittsburgh to make these residents feel welcomed enroll. On the first and third floors of the Cathedral are dozens of Nationality Rooms, meant to “show the good things immigrants brought to America.” Each of these jewel box classrooms is overseen by a committee from various ethnic groups and showcases the traditional décor and culture of the country it represents.
117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the place of Andy Warhol’s birth, The Andy Warhol Museum holds the largest collection of Warhol’s artworks and archival materials. The Warhol is of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world and the largest in North America. Paintings, drawings, commercial illustrations, sculptures, prints, photographs, wallpapers, sketchbooks, and books cover the entire range of Warhol’s career, from his early student work to pop art paintings and collaborations.
Braddock’s Battlefield History Center
609 6th St., Braddock, PA 15104
Braddock’s Battlefield History Center commemorates one of the most famous military engagements in the history of Colonial America, the Battle of the Monongahela, or “Braddock’s Defeat” on July 9, 1755, at the beginning of the French & Indian War. In a surprise encounter for both sides, approximately 650 French allied Indians and 200 French engaged the considerably larger Braddock Expedition, which had been sent to seize Fort Duquesne and thereby to control the “Forks of the Ohio” at the Point in present day Pittsburgh. The result of this engagement, which lasted more than three hours, shocked the Colonies and Europe. It also enhanced the military career of young George Washington, which had previously been undistinguished at best. The cast of participants in the Braddock Expedition and this engagement reads like a “Who’s Who” of colonial America. Many of them were in their twenties and this experience remained with them for the rest of their lives. After more than 250 years since the Battle, the Braddock’s Battlefield communities finally have a historic tourism center befitting this significant historic event.