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New film details the triumphs and tribulations of Pittsburgh's steelmaking past

New film details the triumphs and tribulations of Pittsburgh's steelmaking past
New film details the triumphs and tribulations of Pittsburgh's steelmaking past 02:45

HOMESTEAD, Pa. (KDKA) - "The City of Steel" is a documentary based on the stories of the workers who occupied Pittsburgh's steel mills during the 1970s and 1980s.

"It was in the DNA of Pittsburgh," said Bruce Spiegel. It took Spiegel three years to interview former steelworkers and produce the documentary based on the once-thriving industry that laid the foundation of his hometown.

On Saturday evening, "The City of Steel" premiered inside the AMC Theater at the Waterfront, a location that was once the U.S. Steel Homestead Works, one of the area's biggest steel mills.

"I came to appreciate the sacrifice and the love that they had because they really cared about making steel," Spiegel said about his perspective of the industry while making the piece.

The main characters of "The City of Steel" are the people who worked inside the mills.

Spiegel said most of those people he interviewed were not just steel workers, but they were on the front lines of battling management when steel went into its decline.


Mike Stout was among that group.  He started working at Homestead Works in 1977.

Homestead Works was once the nation's largest steel producer and employed an estimated 150,000 workers in the late 1940s, according to the Center for Land Use Interpretation.

"We were all dependent on each other's lives," Stout said. "We lived and worked and ate together and partied together as a family."

Stout worked at the plant until it closed in 1986.

According to the documentary, from 1981 to 1986, the Pittsburgh Steel Mills disappeared and 153,000 workers lost their jobs and livelihood.

Growing up close to Homestead Works, Spiegel said, like those employees, he always assumed the mills would never go away, but suddenly, they were gone.

"These people who had houses and cars and stuff and they had mortgages to pay and suddenly they were out of a job," Spiegel said. "And how they got through that is an amazing story."

"This was the heart, not only of the steel industry, this was the heart of America," Stout said. "This is what built this country, right here in Homestead."

By 1910, decades before the industry's decline, Pittsburgh was the source of more than 60% of the nation's steel. According to an article published in The Magazine for Environmental Managers, in the late 1980s, over 75% of the steelmaking capacity near Pittsburgh was shuttered.

"We always grew up knowing that this is kind of what, not only Pittsburgh but America was founded on," said Diana Craycroft.  Craycroft was with her family Saturday at AMC Theaters. She said her grandfather was one of the former steelworkers featured in the documentary.

Spiegel personally thanked Craycroft for her interest in the piece.

He said the documentary was also an opportunity to educate the younger generation about the hard work and eventual heartbreak that put the "steel' in Steel City and that he said, is an important story.

The film is distributed online directly from the film's official website:

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