A blast from the past: Cal U students explore the Carrie Blast Furnace


Dr. Christina Fisanick

Cal U Honors Composition Class visited the Carrie Blast Furnace as part of a research project in the fall 2021 semester.

Sarah Seader, Staff Writer

Christina Fisanick’s Honors Composition I class explored a local site full of  history. Eight Cal U students went on an excursion to the Carrie Blast Furnace near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as part of their research project where they had the opportunity to explore the furnace through the eyes of a steel worker. This trip included an in-depth tour of the furnaces and lunch at the Pump House, reminiscing of the lunches once enjoyed by former employees of the Carrie Blast Furnace.

“Knowing our history is absolutely essential to understanding ourselves and each other and history field trips allow us to not just read about or hear about history, but to experience it,”said Fisanick.

The Pump House was the location of the Battle of Homestead, that took place on July 6, 1892. The steel workers went on strike against Carnegie Steel and the company locked the workers out of the mill. Tensions escalated when shots were fired, leaving ten dead in the aftermath. This conflict showed that the Steel Industry was tension-filled throughout the years and this would define the American labor movement for years to come.

The Carrie Blast Furnace is one of the only Steel Works still standing today. It is a direct reflection of Pittsburgh’s place within the steel industry during the 20th century and is the only pre-World War II iron-making technology example still in place today. While the furnaces are non-functional, they still show what steel mill workers went through during their day on the job.

“In HON 150, history becomes the lens through which we build and practice writing skills” said Christina Fisanick, Fisanick mentioned as to why it is important to visit places containing so much history both within Pittsburgh and the steel industry.

This was the second year Dr. Fisanick’s HON 150 students were able to participate in the trip to the Carrie Blast Furnace. Throughout the guided tour, the students were able to visualize and appreciate all of the history and graffiti tied into the Furnace. 

Fisanick stated her favorite part of this year’s trip was, when a student asked our tour guide, a retired Carrie worker, if he would work in the mill again. He said, “In a heartbeat, and not because of the work, but because of the people I worked with. We were family.” 

No matter if one has an interest in history or not, Fisanick’s Digital Storytelling class provides students with an opportunity to explore the world around them and connect with history that should not be forgotten. Dr. Fisanick has always been incredibly proud of her  honors students because learning enough about a part of history to create a high-quality digital story takes intelligence and hard work, and that they deliver semester after semester. 

“I feel privileged to be part of it all, ” said Fisanick.