The Hill District
The Hill District is located just east of downtown Pittsburgh, and bordered by the Strip District, the Bluff , Polish Hill and Oakland. As Pittsburgh began to grow and become an industrial city, many European immigrants moved to the hill overlooking downtown and the Golden Triangle for the location close to the commercial district as well as transportation to the industrial warehouses and railroad complexes through inclines to the bottom of the hill at the Strip District.
A second wave of settlement occurred as more of the white collar workers move east to the green areas of Oakland and Shadyside with the rise of the steel mills and World War I leading to an increased demand for labor. Many newly freed African Americans settled in the Hill District for work and a betterment of their lives.
Throughout the 1920’s and into the late 1940’s the Hill District flourished. It’s diverse culture was vibrant and lively, with great shopping, entertainment and dining. The Granada Theatre, the Crawford Grill and the Hurricane Lounge along with the Savoy Ballroom all played host to legendary Jazz giants such as Lena Horne, Billy Eckstein and “Fatha” Hines.
The diversity of the hill included architecture from the late 1800s boasting a mosaic of synagogues, temples, churches to go along with the housing and commercial landmarks. Greenlee Field, once the nation’s only minority-owned baseball stadium, hosted a bevy of future Hall-of-Famers… Satchel Paige, Jimmie Crutchfield, Josh Gibson, Earl Hord and Papa Bell… as well as the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro League.
The Hill District was once home to The Pittsburgh Courier, with a circulation of over 250,000. Chief Photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris is known for curating one of the most heralded archives of life in an American city. August Wilson, one of America’s premier African-American playwrights, grew up in the Hill and later wrote a series of 10 plays, known as the Pittsburgh Cycle. Denzel Washington most recently starred in and directed “Fences” …one of those plays. It was filmed in the Hill District.
With the decline of the steel industry and urban renewal projects in the early 1950s, the Hill District began to lose businesses and residents. This lasted for many decades. Today, the Hill is coming alive again with many renewal efforts. Neighborhoods are being revitalized, businesses are encouraged to invest and community groups such as The Hill Community Development Corporation are working hard to bring this important neighborhood back to prominence.
Here is more on the history of the Hill District in Pittsburgh.