HOMESTEAD, Pa. – No doubt, the site of the Battle of Homestead is an unlikely location for an artist’s rendition of an ancient meditation circle.
Nevertheless, Lorraine Vullo decided to create her $90,000 labyrinth, funded by grants, along the Monongahela River, where one of the nation’s bloodiest labor fights played out in 1892.
The art installation is hidden over a hillside beside the sprawling Waterfront retail complex on the site of the former Carnegie Steel, the forerunner to U.S. Steel. It's not far from the mill's pump house, which has been restored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area that was created by Congress in 1996 to preserve sites relating to Big Steel.
It was on this riverbank where striking union steelworkers exchanged gunfire with Pinkerton guards whom Henry Clay Frick dispatched there to reopen the mill with cheaper labor. Seven workers and three detectives were killed before the battle ended, along with efforts to organize Pittsburgh steelworkers.
A steady stream of the curious walked around in circles Sunday at the maze-like walkway lined with rectangular stones. Others took a quick glance and left, seeming confused.
A six-pointed star can be found in the epicenter of the temporary installation. Along the outer edge of the circle are concrete paving stones that appear like rays of the sun. They bear the names of mills that once stood along Pittsburgh’s three rivers.
I obediently followed the path, trying to find some inner steel mojo, but could only wonder why such a garden would cost 90 Gs.