The Mall

By James Voelker

Thomas Wolfe once wrote: You can't go home again. That was exactly my reaction when I visited the Waterfront Mall for the first time. Gone was the United States Steel Homestead Works. In its place was 260 acres of shopping, entertainment and dining. It's called the cool spot in Pittsburgh. It made me sick to the stomach.

First, you have to understand, I was born in Homestead in 1949. My Slovak-born grandfather and father each worked 40 years in the mill. I attended St. Michael's Elementary School and Bishop Boyle High School, both overlooking the Homestead Works. I worked at OH5 (Open Hearth #5) in the summer months while attending West Virginia University. I had been a mill hunky and was proud of it. Hell! I worked for the great Homestead Works that provided steel for the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. The steel from Homestead defeated Germany and Japan in World War II and the workers at the mill knew it.

Now, my first visit back to the site of the Great Homestead Works, I was gawking at a window of Victoria's Secret. Then, the memories of the old site began to rush through my mind like the hot steel that flowed from the furnaces. I could remember the noise, the heat, the smell, the convoluted traffic that made up the mill environment. My mind wandered: I was back at Joe Chiodo's Bar on 8th Avenue enjoying a shot and an Iron City Beer. I was at Isaly's enjoying a Skyscraper Cone. I was at Stein's Bar at Amity and 6th Avenue enjoying eggs, bacon and beer after a night shift. I stopped at the Blue Goose Restaurant for a fast hot dog. I was once again on the labor gang working in the flues, shoveling the slag and watching wooden boards under my steel-toed boots smoldering from the heat.

Then, reality check in and I was back at the Waterfront Mall. I came to realize that the mill was gone forever and the shopping mall was necessary to revitalize the area. I noticed that some of the stacks from the mill were left to pay homage to the complex's former use as a steel mill. This is why it is important to have a Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area to preserve the heritage of Big Steel. I know future generations will always be proud of a remarkable period of time when their ancestors produced the steel that built our country. That heritage and birthright will always be their badge of honor.


The 45-Inch Mill

The 45-Inch Mill
Constructed in 1942 as part of Homestead's World War II expansion, the 45-inch mill was in operation until the early 1980s.