Essential Pittsburgh
2:54 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Nothin' But Blue Skies: Revitalization in the Post-Industrial Heartland

Smokestacks in Homestead, PA serve as a reminder of the city's industrial past.
Credit Devon Christopher Adams / flickr

In his recent book, Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland, Ed McClelland chronicles the rise, fall, and hopeful revitalization of some of America’s boomtowns.

He says blue skies is referenced in the title of his novel as a twofold approach to the past and future of these post-industrial cities.

“It’s sort of ironic..I talked to a guy in south Chicago who had grown up next to the US Steel Plant...and they had a saying ‘if there was soot on the windows, there’s food on the table.’ And after US Steel closed down this gentleman said to me, ‘I looked up and saw a blue sky and thought it was the end of the world.’ But I also wanted to give the sense that this was a chance for a clean slate. This was a chance to invent a new kind of city and find a new post-industrial future.”

McClelland devotes much of his novel to Homestead, PA and its rich history regarding the civil rights and labor movements.