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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Cast Iron Columns

 
 
Cast Iron Columns Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, May 29, 2021
1. Cast Iron Columns Marker
Inscription.  
The Iron City
For much of the 19th century, Pittsburgh was known as the Iron City. Home to large and small iron mills and foundries, the region produced a diversity of iron products including nails, cannon, structural and sheet iron, as well as a variety of cast pieces. Iron was king, and companies such as the Sligo Iron Works, Oliver Iron, Carnegie Brothers, and the American Iron Works (later Jones and Laughlin Steel), pictured below, found great success in the region.

Making of Cast Iron
Cast iron is made by re-melting pig iron in a small furnace, called a cupola. The quality and use of the finished cast iron are dependent on the quality of the pig iron. Historically, some of the poorer qualities were only suitable for crude castings such as sash weights, while the better ones were suitable for the manufacture of items such as engines, columns, and girders. Molten iron is into metal frames, forms, or boxes containing sand into which an impression of the cast item has been formed using a wooden pattern.

Cast Iron
First introduced as a framing material in the 1830s, cast iron allowed architects

Cast Iron Columns Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, May 29, 2021
2. Cast Iron Columns Marker
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and builders to have a viable alternative to masonry load bearing walls. Cast iron, being relatively lightweight and strong, made the construction of taller and slimmer buildings such as high-rises possible. Cast-iron columns, compared to masonry columns, had the advantage of being slender and strong which saved space in factories, shops, arcades, and other kinds of buildings. However, it was also notoriously brittle, prone to cracking, and often inconsistent in its makeup. By the early 20th century, these problems, along with the reliable production of wrought iron and steel, relegated cast iron to purely decorative uses such as the columns located at this site.

McKnight Hardware Columns
The columns located here were from the McKnight Hardware Co. located on the corner of Federal Street and W. Lacock Street on the North Side, pictured on right. The building, opened in 1878 by Samuel McKnight (1853-1919), stood until it was razed as part urban and highway development on the North Side. According to architectural historian Walter Kidney, "columns such as these were used to support the interior floor structures of medium-size commercial and public buildings in the middle and late 19th century. The floor structure itself was usually of wood."
 
Erected by Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, DCNR, National Park Service

Cast Iron Columns image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, May 29, 2021
3. Cast Iron Columns
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Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ArchitectureIndustry & Commerce.
 
Location. 40° 25.716′ N, 79° 57.904′ W. Marker is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of South 27th Street and South Water Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Pittsburgh PA 15203, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Rivers of Steel (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Making Steel The J&L Way (about 300 feet away); Open Hearth Steel (about 400 feet away); Shaping Steel (about 400 feet away); The MonCon Railroad (about 400 feet away); Hub of Activity (about 500 feet away); Materials Handling (about 500 feet away); Jones & Laughlin Steel Company (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pittsburgh.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 29, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 29, 2021, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 47 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 29, 2021, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.

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Jun. 16, 2021