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Half of 200-plus 'at risk' historic properties in Pennsylvania remain so

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Towering 92 feet over the Monongahela River the Carrie Furnaces are extremely rare examples of pre World War II iron-making technology, preservationists said. Built in 1907, they furnaces produced iron for the Homestead Works from 1907 to 1978. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Ronald A. Baraff, (right) 49 of Beechview, Director of Museum Collections and Archives at Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, looks at Carrie Furnaces with Steven Kovacik, (left) 36 of Brentwood on Wednesday, January 22, 2013 in Rankin. Kovacik, whose company Zero Fossil has retrofitted parts of the old blast furnace with a new solar powered energy system, was pointing out his favorite part of the historic site to Baraff. The site has been cited as a success story in a 20-year retrospective of preservation efforts in the state. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A restored safety sign adorns the walls at the retired Carrie Furnaces in Rankin on Wednesday, January 22, 2013. Ronald A. Baraff, 49, of Beechview, Director of Museum Collections and Archives at Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, said that this and another hand painted sign were restored recently by volunteers after the signs had been vandalized after the facility's close in 1982. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Towering 92 feet over the Monongahela River the Carrie Furnaces are extremely rare examples of pre World War II iron-making technology, preservationists said. Built in 1907, they furnaces produced iron for the Homestead Works from 1907 to 1978. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A detail of a steam valve at Carrie Furnaces on Wednesday, January 22, 2013 in Rankin. The site has been cited as a success story in a 20-year retrospective of preservation efforts in the state. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Graffiti lines the walls at the retired Carrie Furnaces in Rankin on Wednesday, January 22, 2013. Ronald A. Baraff, 49, of Beechview, Director of Museum Collections and Archives at Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, said that he sees certain pieces of graffiti as part of the transformation and history of the site, and is working with graffiti experts, artists and teachers to see which pieces to preserve. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

About half of more than 200 historic properties that Preservation Pennsylvania identified as “at risk” during the past 20 years remain that way, the group said in a report released on Wednesday.

Thirty-six properties were lost — demolished or substantially altered, according to “Pennsylvania At Risk, 1992-2012.” Sixty-four, including the Carrie Furnaces 6 and 7 in Rankin, were saved.

Properties in peril include houses, schools, churches, theaters, medical facilities, other industrial properties, a bridge, train station, cemetery, an archaeological site, roller coaster and a bandshell.

“This list is a compilation of resources that lots of people care about. ... A lot of these resources may have been forgotten over the years,” said Mindy Crawford, the group's executive director. “We hope to stir up some memories.”

Carrie Furnaces 6 and 7 are important monuments, said August R. Carlino, CEO of the eight-county Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, which includes other historic industrial sites.

“There is nothing like this left, not only in Pittsburgh, but the country,” he said.

Towering 92 feet over the Monongahela River, the Carrie furnaces are rare examples of pre-World War II iron making technology, preservationists said. Built in 1907, the furnaces produced iron for the Homestead Works from 1907 to 1978.

They drew 3,000 to 4,000 visitors last year from as far away as Florida and Arizona, Carlino said. Their $78 million stabilization and restoration is central to a $500 million brownfield restoration project the county is leading.

The Preservation Pennsylvania list can “raise awareness of endangered historic properties,” said Andy Masich, chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Historic preservation tourism pumps billions of dollars into the state and funds thousands of jobs, studies show. About 32 million visitors spent $1 billion at Pennsylvania historical sites in 2011, which supported 37,000 jobs, according to a report published last year by state historical and preservation groups.

Preservation Pennsylvania listed the Thomas Kent Jr. Farm in Greene County as a property that was saved — sort of.

Subsidence from longwall mining cracked the farm's 1851 Greek Revival main house, despite bands and cables to hold it together. A corner of the structure was reconstructed.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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