Rankin Borough, just a few miles east of the city of Pittsburgh, was originally inhabited by the Shawnee, Iroquois and Delaware Indian Tribes. The first settlers wandered into the area in the early 1700s. Originally farmland, the first large farm was established by Robert Hawkins in the mid 1800s. The railroads pushed westward, and he was ornamental in bringing a small station used as a right-of-way that bore his name. Thomas Rankin, namesake of this Pittsburgh suburb, purchased a section of land from Hawkins along the B&O tracks and a larger rail station, bearing the Rankin name, was constructed.
River access and rail transportation let to increased settlement in the area and the Duquesne Forge Company relocated it’s plant to the borough from Pittsburgh. Gunboats for the Civil War were built there, as well as locks for the Panama Canal.
1883 saw the construction of the Carrie Furnace (designated an National Historic Landmark in 2006 and the only non-operative blast furnaces in Pittsburgh left standing ) by McClintock-Marshall Company (later bought by Bethlehem Steel). More companies and industry began to move in and as they did,the population grew. 1892 saw the incorporation of Rankin Station and the name was changed to Rankin Borough and boundaries set in 1894. The area grew as a result of the industrial revolution,but peaked in the 1930s.
The decline of the steel industry left it’s mark on Rankin, just as it had on many areas of the Pittsburgh region and the rust belt. With little industry or employment, the area fell on hard times. Critical to the history of Pittsburgh and also America, Rankin has recently scene efforts to redevelop the area around the Carrie Furnace. This has created a renewed interest in Rankin as one of Pittsburgh’s exciting renaissance projects.