City Stories

Pittsburgh, PA: The East Side

pittsburgh ghetto pittsburgh east side pittsburgh homewood pittsburgh hill district

Pittsburgh East Side

Short Story of the Pittsburgh Ghetto

A large city in the western part of Pennsylvania, nicknamed the Steel City and known for the prominent sports team that all fly the Black and Yellow, a song made famous by local Hip Hop artists Wiz Khalifa, but this article will shed light on the communities of the Pittsburgh ghetto of the East Side, West Side, South Side and North Side.

A true history lesson of the black communities of Pittsburgh, like the historic and once thriving Hill District, and a history lesson of the streets of Pittsburgh as the city was one of the first East Coast cities to truly adopt a gang culture, whether it was homegrown gangs or the embracing of national gangs.

While the days of gangbangin’ in Pittsburgh are of the past, the city’s street life consisted of numerous gangs throughout the city like the Bloods, Crips, West Side Convicts, and the LAW gang, all who were created in the ‘hoods of Pittsburgh urban areas, areas that have changed drastically from previous generations.

The Streets of the Pittsburgh East Side

Pittsburgh’s largest side, the East Side, is the heart of the Pittsburgh ghetto as the area expands from the once historic Hill District to the unofficially East Side neighborhood of Wilkinsburg, while having numerous ‘hoods and urban communities in between.

During the era of Pittsburgh’s gangbangin’ days Bloods, Crips, and the once infamous LAW gang (Larimer Avenue Wilkinsburg) ran the East Side by creating some of Pennsylvania’s most active communities, due to the likes of the old Alley Mob, Formosa Way, or the old East Liberty projects that were often referred as the Crack Stacks.

east side pittsburgh hill district pittsburgh ghetto

The Chauncey Drive section of Pittsburgh Hill District ‘s Bedford Dwellings housing complex.

The once heart of the streets of the Pittsburgh East Side was the community’s old public housing projects, from the Hill District’s Allequippa Terrace and Addison Terrace to Garfield Heights to the Pennly Park Apartments, also known as the East Liberty Towers.

Outside of the housing projects, the reputation within the Pittsburgh ghetto of the East Side included the community of Homewood, which is broken down into Downtown and Uptown, a once rival to the Pittsburgh Homewood ‘hood, Lincoln Avenue, a former Crip neighborhood that is located in the Lincoln Lemington Belmar community with subsets or ‘hoods like 2-4-7 or the Afghan Projects of Lemington Heights.

east side pittsburgh ghetto pittsburgh homewood

The heart of the Pittsburgh Homewood neighborhood.

As stated above, one of the most respected gangs of Pittsburgh was the LAW Gang. The true link between Larimer Avenue and Wilkinsburg, which is home to areas like Trillside and City Bound, is unknown but the two neighborhoods created such a reputation that federal agents had to help facilitate the arrests of many of their members.

Other communities include, the Garfield neighborhood, the former home of the Alley Mob and the Garfield Heights projects, but now the community is only defined around Aiken Avenue. An ally of Garfield, due to their Blood affiliations, is the once notorious East Hills, a former housing complex that was rebuilt during the mid-2000s after creating a reputation that dated back to the 1970s.




Brief History of Pittsburgh East Side

The true beginning of Pittsburgh black culture and African American community resides in the city’s once historic neighborhood of the Hill District. Often referred as the “Harlem of Pittsburgh”, the heart of the city’s African American population was truly with the Hill District, especially during the early and mid-1900s.

pittsburgh hill district

Mural representing black history of Pittsburgh East Side within the Pittsburgh Hill District neighborhood.

From live entertainment with Jazz and some of world’s most famous black musicians attending the clubs of the community to the numerous of black owned businesses, the Hill District was once thriving community that became one of the city’s most successful communities.

east side pittsburgh hill district

Murals representing black history of Pittsburgh East Side within the Pittsburgh Hill District neighborhood.

After the city built the Civic Arena in the lower Hill District, during the days of urban renewal, many businesses were destroyed and many residents were forced to relocate into different parts of the city, like Homewood and other neighboring East Side communities, the North Side, and into the city’s public housing projects that were scattered throughout Pittsburgh.




Gentrification and Today’s Pittsburgh East Side

Today the East Side of Pittsburgh is heavily changing as the city’s black population, in the neighborhoods within the city limits, are moving further east into communities outside of the city, like Penn Hills or the many urban communities of the Mon Valley district.

east side pittsburgh homewood  pittsburgh ghetto

Pittsburgh Homewood is similar to the Hill District and many East Side neighborhoods with the city letting the community to rot and become to dilapidated, a very easy way to rebuild.

While in the Hill District, most of the community’s housing projects have been mostly demolished and/or rebuilt, while blocks from Bedford to Wylie have been either left for vacant or slowly in the process of being gentrified.

Around the East Liberty neighborhood, which have been part of the city’s black community for generations, are experiencing gentrification along Penn Avenue and other nearby shopping districts that will eventually work its way into the heart of the urban neighborhoods of Garfield and Larimer neighborhood.

east side pittsburgh ghetto

The heart of the Garfield neighborhood, which is one of the most sought after areas on the East Side.

The future of the East Side Pittsburgh urban communities and neighborhoods seemed to be destined for gentrification as residents who fled from the inner city during the 1960s and 1970s are anticipating their move back into the urban areas of the East Side, due to its close location to some of Pittsburgh most popular attractions.




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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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