When Andrew Carnegie proposed construction of a Bessemer steel mill in 1872, his mentor William Coleman suggested as an ideal location the riverside meadow where General Edward Braddock met defeat at the hands of the French and Indians in 1755. Situated eight miles southeast of Pittsburgh, the land was cheap and situated on both the Baltimore and Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroad lines. It was perfect for bringing raw materials on the Monongahela, and not far downstream of the Youghiogheny River, along which rail lines carried Connellsville coal and coke to the area.
Carnegie undertook the project with his customary enthusiasm, which did not flag even in the financial panic of 1873. To plan the works, he hired Alexander Holley, a preeminent mill designer, who brought with him the legendary Captain William Jones to help build and later manage the mill. Production of steel rails began in August 1875, and hung on through the mill closings of the 1980s to remain the last steel producer in the Pittsburgh area.
Edgar Thomson is best viewed at night, perhaps from a vantage point in nearby Rankin or atop one of the thrill rides in Kennywood Park ( AL54), when the huge glowing plant, smoky and noisy and belching fire, evokes the grit and power of Pittsburgh a century ago.