Monday, June 19, 2006

Lower Hill District demolition began 50 years ago

It makes sense that nobody is going out of their way to notice, but this month marks exactly 50 years since demolition of the Lower Hill District began in earnest in June 1956.

The best book I know of on what the impacts were to the community actually living in the Lower Hill at the time is Mindy Fullilove's: Root Shock: The demolition of America's urban neighborhoods (Ballantine), which I once wrote a review of in the PG. Unfortunately the PG did not put the pictures they ran with this book review online, but they had some of their own file photos of the demolition that really were quite telling.... worth looking up if you are interested in the history.

There still needs to be a few books written about what the mass relocation of the families meant to the City and region as a whole. The impact was not limited to just the one neighborhood. Those families moved into areas across the city, increasing crowding and accelerating the movement of many city residents into the suburbs or beyond. Clearly the Hill District has never been the same.

This thumbnail is of a photo by John Shrader shows David Lawrence ceremonially 'starting' the demolition on May 31, 1956. I presume not much else got done that day, which would make June 1956 as a more realistic reference for when actual demolition began. If the preservationists at the Carnegie ever finish the heroic task of indexing Teenie Harris' photos, I would like to see if he had any shots of this day.


Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You may not remember, but I imnterviewed you two years ago for Pulp about efforts to turn Downtown into a residential neighborhood. You noted that had it not been bulldozed, the Lower Hill would have supplied Downtown with housing stock that could have redeveloped or gentrified.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I remember. It was Pulp's last issue wasn't it? That article can be read here. I do think that the Lower Hill District was in many ways Pittsburgh's downtown neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 8:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Indeed it was the final issue. A dubious distinction for me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 9:24:00 PM  
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