The Hill District is a historic African-American neighborhood located in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The neighborhood is situated just east of downtown and is known for its rich cultural heritage and prominent role in the city's history.
The Hill District was originally settled in the mid-19th century by European immigrants, but by the early 20th century, it had become a predominantly African-American neighborhood. During the Great Migration, thousands of African-Americans from the South migrated to Pittsburgh and settled in the Hill District, which became a thriving center of African-American culture and commerce.
In the early 20th century, the Hill District was a hub of jazz music and nightlife. Legendary musicians such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Strayhorn all performed in the neighborhood's nightclubs and theaters. The Hill District also had a thriving business district, with many African-American-owned businesses and professional offices.
In the 1950s and 1960s, however, the Hill District began to experience significant economic and social challenges. Urban renewal projects and highway construction led to the destruction of many homes and businesses in the neighborhood, and many residents were displaced. The construction of the Civic Arena, for example, displaced over 8,000 residents and hundreds of businesses.
Despite these challenges, the Hill District has remained a vibrant and resilient community. In recent years, there have been efforts to revitalize the neighborhood and preserve its cultural heritage. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture, for example, is a cultural institution that celebrates the contributions of African-Americans to the arts, culture, and history of Pittsburgh. The Hill District also has a rich tradition of community activism and social justice, with many residents working to improve conditions in the neighborhood and advocate for the rights of marginalized communities.
Top Tourist Attractions
- August Wilson House: This is the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, who grew up in the Hill District. The house has been restored and turned into a museum that celebrates Wilson's life and work.
- Crawford Grill: This jazz club was a popular spot in the Hill District during the 20th century and hosted legendary musicians such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. Although the original club is no longer open, there is a replica located inside the August Wilson Center.
- Freedom Corner: This is a public square located at the intersection of Centre Avenue and Crawford Street that is a gathering place for protests and demonstrations. It features a large statue of Martin Luther King Jr. and a mural that depicts key moments in the civil rights movement.
- Hill House Association: This community organization was founded in 1964 and has been instrumental in preserving the Hill District's cultural heritage and advocating for the rights of its residents. The organization offers tours of the neighborhood that highlight its history and landmarks.
- Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company: This theater company produces plays written by Pittsburgh-based playwrights, including August Wilson. The company is located in the heart of the Hill District and is dedicated to promoting local talent and diversity in the arts.
- St. Benedict the Moor Church: This historic church was founded in 1894 and is the oldest African-American Catholic church in Pittsburgh. It is known for its beautiful stained glass windows and impressive architecture.
- Wylie Avenue Historic District: This district was once the center of African-American life in the Hill District and features several historic buildings, including the New Granada Theater and the Wylie Avenue branch of the Carnegie Library.
Overall, the Hill District offers visitors a unique glimpse into African-American history and culture in Pittsburgh, and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the city's rich cultural heritage.
The Hill District is a historic neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a rich cultural heritage and a long history. Here are some historical facts about the Hill District:
- The Hill District was originally settled by European immigrants in the mid-19th century, but by the early 20th century, it had become a predominantly African-American neighborhood.
- During the Great Migration, thousands of African-Americans from the South migrated to Pittsburgh and settled in the Hill District, which became a thriving center of African-American culture and commerce.
- The Hill District was home to many prominent African-American musicians, including jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Strayhorn, who performed in the neighborhood's nightclubs and theaters.
- In the mid-20th century, the Hill District experienced significant economic and social challenges, including urban renewal projects and highway construction that led to the destruction of many homes and businesses.
- The Hill District has a rich tradition of community activism and social justice, with many residents working to improve conditions in the neighborhood and advocate for the rights of marginalized communities.
- The Hill District was the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, whose plays are set in the neighborhood and capture the struggles and triumphs of African-American life in Pittsburgh.
- The Hill District has been the setting for many important moments in Pittsburgh's history, including the civil rights movement and the struggle for racial and economic justice.
- The Hill District is home to several important cultural institutions, including the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, that celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to the arts, culture, and history of Pittsburgh.
Overall, the Hill District has played an important role in Pittsburgh's history and is a vital part of the city's cultural heritage.
The Great Migration
The Hill District played an important role during the Great Migration, a period in the early 20th century when millions of African-Americans left the rural South and migrated to northern cities in search of better economic opportunities and freedom from racial oppression.
During the Great Migration, thousands of African-Americans from the South settled in the Hill District, which became one of the largest and most vibrant African-American communities in the country. The Hill District was known for its strong sense of community and culture, with a thriving business district and a vibrant nightlife that featured jazz music and other forms of entertainment.
The migrants who settled in the Hill District faced many challenges, including discrimination and segregation in housing, education, and employment. However, they also found opportunities for economic advancement and social mobility that were not available to them in the South.
The Hill District became a center of African-American culture and activism during the Great Migration, with many residents working to improve conditions in the neighborhood and advocate for civil rights and social justice. Prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X visited the Hill District to speak and inspire residents in their struggle for equality. Today, the Hill District is still an important part of Pittsburgh's African-American community and a reminder of the rich history and cultural heritage of the Great Migration. The neighborhood continues to face challenges, but it is also a place of resilience and hope, where residents work to preserve their history and build a better future for themselves and their community.
It is situated immediately to the southeast of downtown Pittsburgh and is bordered by the Monongahela River to the south, Oakland to the east, the Strip District to the north, and the Bluff to the west. The Hill District is divided into several smaller neighborhoods, including Crawford-Roberts, Bedford Dwellings, Middle Hill, Upper Hill, and Terrace Village.
The Hill District is known for its distinctive topography, with steep hills and narrow streets that were once lined with row houses and small businesses. The neighborhood is also home to several important landmarks and cultural institutions, including the August Wilson House, the Crawford Grill, and the New Granada Theater. The Hill District is also home to several parks, including Westinghouse Park, which was designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
The Hill District has historically been an important center of African-American culture and activism in Pittsburgh, and has been the setting for many important moments in the city's history. Despite facing significant challenges over the years, including urban renewal projects and highway construction, the Hill District remains an important part of Pittsburgh's cultural heritage and a vital center of African-American life in the city.
Center of Culture (1920s-1950s)
During the 1920s-1950s, the Hill District of Pittsburgh was the center of African-American culture in the city and a vibrant hub of art, music, and literature. It was a place where African-American artists, musicians, and writers came together to share their experiences and create works that reflected their lives and struggles.
One of the most important aspects of the Hill District's cultural scene was its music. Jazz music was especially popular, and the neighborhood was home to many jazz clubs, including the Crawford Grill and the Hurricane Club, which hosted performances by some of the greatest jazz musicians of the era, such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstine. The jazz scene in the Hill District was an important part of the broader cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, which celebrated African-American culture and identity.
The Hill District was also home to a thriving literary scene, with writers such as Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes spending time in the neighborhood and drawing inspiration from its vibrant culture. The poet and playwright August Wilson was born and raised in the Hill District, and many of his plays are set there, capturing the struggles and triumphs of African-American life in Pittsburgh.
In addition to its music and literature, the Hill District was also a center of activism and social justice. During the 1920s-1950s, African-American residents of the Hill District worked to challenge racial discrimination and segregation in housing, education, and employment. The neighborhood was the site of many important civil rights protests and demonstrations, and many of its residents played a key role in the broader struggle for racial equality in the United States. Overall, the Hill District's cultural scene during the 1920s-1950s was a reflection of the rich history and experiences of African-Americans in Pittsburgh and beyond. It remains an important part of the neighborhood's identity and a vital part of the city's cultural heritage.
Starting in the mid-20th century, the Hill District experienced a significant economic decline that had a major impact on the neighborhood and its residents. Several factors contributed to this decline, including changes in the economy, urban renewal projects, and transportation developments.
One of the most significant factors in the Hill District's economic decline was the loss of manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these jobs had been held by African-American residents of the Hill District, and their loss had a devastating impact on the neighborhood's economy. At the same time, the rise of suburbanization led to a decline in the urban core of Pittsburgh, including the Hill District, as people moved out of the city and into the suburbs.
Another factor in the Hill District's decline was urban renewal projects that took place in the mid-20th century. These projects, which were intended to revitalize blighted urban areas, often involved demolishing existing buildings and displacing residents. In the Hill District, urban renewal projects led to the demolition of many historic buildings and the displacement of thousands of residents, which had a significant impact on the social and economic fabric of the neighborhood.
Transportation developments also played a role in the Hill District's decline. In the 1950s, the construction of the Civic Arena, a large sports and entertainment venue, led to the displacement of thousands of residents and businesses in the Lower Hill District, which was seen as a blighted area. The construction of highways in the 1960s further cut off the Hill District from the rest of Pittsburgh, making it more difficult for residents to access jobs and services in other parts of the city.
Overall, the economic decline of the Hill District had a profound impact on the neighborhood and its residents, leading to high levels of poverty, unemployment, and social dislocation. However, the community has continued to work to revitalize the neighborhood and create new opportunities for economic growth and social development.
The Hill District today
Today, the Hill District is a neighborhood that is undergoing significant change and revitalization. While the neighborhood continues to face challenges related to poverty, unemployment, and social inequality, there are many positive developments that are helping to transform the area and create new opportunities for residents.
One of the most important recent developments in the Hill District is the construction of the new August Wilson Center for African American Culture. The center, which opened in 2009, is a state-of-the-art facility that showcases the rich cultural heritage of African-Americans in Pittsburgh and beyond. It hosts a variety of performances, exhibitions, and events, and is an important hub for artistic and cultural activity in the city.
The Hill District is also home to several new housing developments that are helping to revitalize the neighborhood and create new opportunities for residents. One example is the Bedford Dwellings development, which includes affordable housing units, retail space, and community facilities. The development is part of a larger effort to create mixed-income housing in the Hill District, and has been praised for its innovative design and community-oriented approach.
Another important development in the Hill District is the creation of new business and employment opportunities. Several new businesses have opened in the neighborhood in recent years, including restaurants, cafes, and retail shops. The Hill District is also home to the Energy Innovation Center, which provides job training and employment opportunities in the energy sector.
Overall, the Hill District is a neighborhood that is undergoing significant change and transformation. While there are still many challenges that need to be addressed, the community is working together to create a brighter future for the neighborhood and its residents.
In art and popular culture
The Hill District has been a major source of inspiration for artists and cultural figures throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and has played an important role in shaping American art and popular culture.
One of the most notable cultural figures to emerge from the Hill District is August Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who wrote a series of ten plays that explore the African-American experience in the 20th century, many of which are set in the Hill District. Wilson's plays, which include "Fences," "The Piano Lesson," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," are widely regarded as some of the most important works of American theater, and have had a profound influence on contemporary drama.
The Hill District has also been the subject of numerous works of literature, including John Edgar Wideman's "Hiding Place," David Bradley's "The Chaneysville Incident," and Waverly Duck's "No Way Out." These works explore the history and culture of the Hill District, and offer powerful insights into the experiences of the neighborhood's residents.
In the world of music, the Hill District has been a major center of jazz and blues, and has been home to many legendary musicians, including Mary Lou Williams, Erroll Garner, and Billy Strayhorn. The neighborhood has also been featured in numerous works of popular music, including "Take the A Train" by Duke Ellington, which was written as a tribute to the Hill District's vibrant jazz scene.
The Hill District has also been the setting for a number of films and television shows, including "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Fences," and "Mindhunter." These works offer powerful depictions of life in the Hill District, and have helped to raise awareness of the neighborhood's rich history and culture.
Overall, the Hill District has played an important role in shaping American art and popular culture, and continues to be a source of inspiration for artists and cultural figures around the world.