The Carrie Furnace
The Carrie Furnace is an abandoned iron furnace near Pittsburgh, PA. This fine art photography project contains furnace images and audio commentary from a former worker at the facility.
The Carrie Furnace
I first saw the Carrie Furnace in the summer of 2010, while on a tour sponsored by my college alumni association. At the time, all I knew about Carrie was that it was a long abandoned blast furnace that had been in use back when Pittsburgh was at the center of the world's iron and steel production. By the end of that tour I also knew that I had to somehow gain access to photograph the site, which was behind barbed wire and closed to the public. And so began a one year quest to gain access to the furnace, which culminated in several opportunities to make photographs of a location that I found surreal and, at the same time, quite beautiful.
In 1978, after 97 years of service, the Carrie Furnace, which at one time had produced up to 1250 tons of iron daily, was permanently and somewhat surreptitiously closed. Those who labored here were not told by management that they were being laid off. Instead, they were told that the furnace and stoves needed to be relined with brick - a routine, if intermittent, job that took a few weeks - and so they simply left work, leaving behind their personal items with the expectation of returning. They never did.
Though 4000 men had labored here under trying conditions, my experience at the furnace was more akin to photographing a ghost town that had been suddenly frozen in time.
Interestingly, what most people wanted to see in my Carrie photographs was "historical documentation". However, what attracted me to the project was not the history, the industrial machinery, or the 'urban grunge', but the astonishing array of graphic lines and shapes made by the furnace, stoves, and pipes. My interest in learning about the process of iron and steel production came later, culminating in my being introduced to Mr. Ron Gault. Mr. Gault worked at Carrie in the 1970s and was kind enough to allow me to interview him. One could not hope for a more articulate and interesting person to learn from. He was not only extremely knowledgeable about the furnace and what it was like to work there, but he had a plethora of fascinating anecdotes as well. His words gave my images an added depth and a more personal dimension and I thank him for allowing me to use his voice to accompany the photographs in this project.
Though the Carrie Furnace has been heavily vandalized over the years and only two of the original seven furnaces still stand, there may yet be hope for it. A Pittsburgh based non-profit organization, Rivers Of Steel, is actively working to restore what remains and make it an historic landmark attesting to the steel producing heritage of Western Pennsylvania. I am hopeful that this portfolio can, in some small way, help them to achieve this goal.