Francine In Retirement
Seeing Life Through Photography





When I was growing up, Pittsburgh was a great steel town.  The steel mills could be found all along the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh’s South Side to Homestead, Rankin and Braddock, small steel mill towns outside of the city limits.

Iron and steel were our main industries for nearly a century and a half. The mills along the rivers churned out their products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It can be said that steel from Pittsburgh mills practically built America. From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, steel from Pittsburgh found its way to all corners of the developing nation.

For just over 100 years, Pennsylvania was truly “the steel capital of the world.” Making steel was a great drama of wealth and poverty, of soaring skyscrapers and gritty mill towns, of the clash between the imperatives of profit and human dignity. Pennsylvania’s steel built the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State building. 

Now, only one steel mill along the Monongahela is in operation today.  The Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, Homestead Works and Carrie Furnace are no longer in operation.  

No longer do you see fire and smoke raging from it stacks or iron being poured into cigar-shaped hot metal cars that will carry the liquid iron made from iron ore, coke and limestone across the river to manufacture steel.  No longer do you see men filing out with their lunch pails in hand, covered with smoke and grime after a long days work.  What can be found today is a deserted steel mill that offers tours to people so they may experience life of a bygone era as told through the memories of a former steel worker, history expert and guide.   

What is left?  Rust, decay and Graffiti Art everywhere.  The photos shown above were taken when my photography group was given a private tour of the closed Carrie Furnace, where graffiti artist have left their artistic designs on the walls, blast furnace and equipment.  

The site has received a historical landmark designation and is waiting to be developed into a historic park with Carrie Furnace being one of the attractions.

FrizzText is the sponsor of this challenge and you can join in and find other entries on his Flickr Comments Story Challenge: Letter G site.  I hope you will visit and maybe enter your own interpretation of the challenge.

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  1. Your photos are like post holocaust scifi movies terrific!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

  2. Aww, this post has made me a little bit sad. Always sad to witness the passing of an era.

  3. Great post, Francine, and response to the challenge. Coming from Detroit, the Motor City owes Steel City a big debt. For a long time, every chassis made in Detroit was made with Pittsburgh steel — and both cities profited greatly.

  4. where is the steel made now??? in china? great post francine, imagine all those empty mills ….

  5. Just another sad sign of the times, but great graffiti.. 😉

  6. It is amazing that these places are no longer used since they played such a huge role in American history. It’s a shame. Have to admit though, I love the look of them now. Nice photos. I hope they always stay.

  7. How sad. The graffiti looks beautiful though, a guided tour of the mill must be so special. Excellent post and photos Francine.

  8. So, you bent back to Carrie Furnace. Well, of course you did it’s like a dream come true! I would love to go and shoot there!

  9. How wonderful if they could restore it and make it a place for all see and learn Pittsburgh’s history. Our school students would benefit greatly, knowing their heritage. Excellent post Francine.

    • Thanks Ruth, I read they are cleaning it up to make a historic park with other attraction scheduled for the land. I think it will be developed somewhat like the Waterfront. I noticed the land around the furnace has been cleared of the wild growth.

  10. Very nice post, and thank you for your many comments on my blog. I’ve Nominated you for the Commenter Award, Congratulations! You can read more about it at

  11. Some great shots, like them, even the story behind the photos are sad – but your shots tell us the story… 😉

  12. Thanks! What a cool place. I love abandoned buildings and places. They are spooky and cool at the same time!

  13. Francine …. I live across the state from you in Bethlehem. Home of Bethlehem Steel. Our steel area looked similar to yours several years ago, but something magical happened. The city has been transforming our brown-space. It now houses visitor centers, movie theatres, ARTSQUEST (with the old furnaces as the backdrop) … and so much more. Great post. Thank you!

    • GREAT! I think that is what is planned for this area as well. It is encouraging that out of ashes and defeat can rise hope and encouragement and a new birth. Thanks for you comment.

  14. I am putting the tour on my to do list when I go to Pittsburgh. I’d say Pittsburgh steel built more than just the US it was one of our major exports at one time – steel to the world. Thank you so much for sharing and resharing your posts.

    • I am glad you plan to visit this site, I know you will enjoy the experience. And because you are such a great photographer you will have a field day. Look for the deer head, it is amazing.

  15. It is a sad story about the steel industry in Pittsburgh… but good to hear about the historic park Great photos! Thank you, Francine!

  16. Fantastic photos. The disrepair and ruin tell the sad story.

  17. Hi Francine! I love your blog and you’ve been given an award! Go here to accept.
    Thanks for all you do!

  18. I love these historical posts of yours with photos and text.

  19. Fascinating post and amazing history. I’m glad I had the opportunity to live in Pittsburgh.

  20. […] Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreEmailPrintDiggLinkedInStumbleUponRedditTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  21. Awesome post, Francine. Educational & interesting.
    God Bless you & yours!

  22. You are doing an awesome job behind the shutters! Best wishes for the week!

  23. nice abandoned look and cool graffiti 🙂

  24. First of all you have told the story so well Francine and it must have been amazing touring and having the opportunity to photograph there with like minded people, I would love to.
    But how very sad that the factories that built the nation are no more. Who makes the steel now? Building is still taking place, so where does it cone from? 😦

    • Thank you, we had a lot of fun while there. Today the world’s steel mil is in Gwangyang, South Korea. The number one production of steel is China, followed by Japan.

      • Wow. Interesting facts. Whenever I think of steel, I can’t help but picture Mao TseDong having everyone surrender so much.

  25. My first visit and I am so glad. We as kids far away in India were taught in school about Pittsburgh being a great steel town. Thanks the pictures were very illustrative.


  26. Thanks for sharing a beautiful history of this amazing place. The photos also moves the reader’s heart, and the words, just inspiring. Thanks.

  27. my hometown was a steel town too (20.000 workers there) – now the ovens are gone to China, many are jobless here …

  28. Wow! Beautiful…. sad…. thought-provoking.

  29. What a wonderful story teller you are. It is quite sad how most of the great American mill towns and steel plants have closed. I am happy to hear they have plans to reopen this area as an historic landmark. And the graffiti art is truly magnificent. Great post!

  30. Great pics of Pittsburgh and of the renouned Pittsburgh Steel ,even here in Australia ,we are all aware of the mighty steel industry associated with Pittsburgh . It must sadden to see this demise and of the number who were employed in its heyday. Your graffiti is no prettier than ours ,sad to say.

    Thanks for sharing we are all the better for knowing .

  31. History isn’t always positive and without heartache. You’ve descirbed
    te passing of an era so well. The photo’s showcase the past and the graffitti some of our future. Sad .. indeed.

  32. Thank you for this lovely post. So much have changed in not so short a time.

  33. You have some incredible photos of the place! I’m currently working with the furnace doing urban art tours and they’ve appointed me the curator for new urban art to be painted there. Artists from all over have come through so far but I would love to spread the word even more. Please send me an email as it would be awesome to be able to use a couple of your photos for things like flyers for Rivers of Steel events. Again, great stuff!! ~Shane

    • Submitted on 2014/04/14 at 10:05 pm | In reply to Eugenio.
      Hi Shane,
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I am humbled and honored that you would like to use my photos for flyers for your project.
      I’ve also have other post on the Carrie Furnace located below:

      I hope you enjoy the above. You may use any of my photos. I hope you will use my name, if possible. If you have any trouble obtaining the above sites, go into my blog and search for Carrie Furnace. If you would like me to email you any photos, please let me know.

      THANK YOU!

      Francine Gassette

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I’m looking for a few specific types of images in particular from the furnace. Could you send me an email? I can explain a bit more and send over a few things we’ve been doing to give you an idea 🙂 mine is – info at 82concepts dot com – thanks again!!!

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