Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area

Pittsburgh might not look like it today, but back in the late 1800s to 1980, the city and the southwestern Pennsylvania region were considered the Steel Making Capital of the World. Iconic structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building owe their steel to the Commonwealth. And while nearly all steel mills in the area have been closed for decades, their legacy lives on.

To recognize the importance of this region for the United States’ military and building strength, Congress designated the region as the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in 1996. The purpose of the area is, “to preserve, interpret, and manage the historic, cultural, and natural resources related to Big Steel and its related industries.” The heritage area is comprised of more than 5,000 square miles in eight counties, and home to numerous opportunities to learn about the history of the area first-hand.

For instance, use the Routes to Roots driving guide to see milltowns, steel magnate mansions, national landmarks, and quaint towns. A visit to the Bost Building museum in Homestead will educate and enlighten, as you explore permanent and rotating exhibits on topics such as women in unions and what it was like to work in a steel mill. Or take a walk down one of the many riverfront or rail trails, including the Great Allegheny Passage. Can’t make it to the area right now? Then check out this online, interactive virtual tour of the Pittsburgh industrial district and how it has changed from 1750 to the present.

Want to learn more about the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area before you plan your next vacation to the Pittsburgh area? Then watch this brief video clip, and see what makes this part of Pennsylvania so interesting and unique.