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90 Neighborhoods. A City of Multitudes.
Way in Pittsburgh's East End, past East Liberty and past Larimer, lies Homewood. While technically three neighborhoods, for the purposes of this blog we're considering the entirety of Homewood one area.
While this region started off as a home for the wealthy, it underwent two major transformations as Pittsburgh grew. First, it became a go-to for Italians, Irish, German and Black families due to low-cost housing. Second, it became a predominantly Black neighborhood following a huge displacement of the Black population from the Hill District in the 1950s after the construction of the Civic Arena.
Many of the places we've covered in our Neighborhoods series, like Lawrenceville and the Strip District, have already seen a tremendous amount of change that has transformed into popular tourist hotspots. In Homewood, that change is just beginning, with a comprehensive community plan and numerous organizations to help this neighborhood preserve its history and develop new businesses, all while keeping costs low and access easy.
As Homewood continues to change and grow, here's some ways to honor the history of this iconic Pittsburgh neighborhood and places to eat and check out during your visit!
Homewood was the dwelling of two high profile Pittsburghers who both were instrumental in the success of The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most important Black newspapers in the country. The founder, editor and publisher of The Courier, Robert Lee Vann, has historical markers in the city itself, but his home is located at 7337 Monticello.
Just a short walk from his home is the house of Charles "Teenie" Harris, the iconic photographer for The Courier, located on 7604 Mulford St. His incredible photography, known both for showing everyday people about their lives as well as major celebrities, can be viewed in person at the Carnegie Museum of Art's permanent exhibit.
Please note that these are both private residences. Stick to the sidewalks when visiting.
As you pass by 7101 Apple St in Homewood, you'll see a Historical Marker planted into the ground with a grand Victorian home towering behind it. This historic building is the birthplace of Mary Cardwell Dawson's National Negro Opera Company, the longest running Black opera company in the country!
The house's legacy continued to be a haven for Black celebrities, business people and athletes who were denied hotel rooms elsewhere and a major cultural hub for the city. Now, efforts are ongoing to not only restore this historic landmark but also continue to educate the community and provide cultural opportunities to Pittsburgh residents.
Located on 7310 Frankstown Ave, the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum is hard to miss as you pass by on one of Homewood's main thoroughfares. This historic building's heyday was in the 1890s-1950s when hundreds of streetcars were housed here. As with many cultural landmarks in Homewood, efforts are now underway to help redevelop this treasured community asset and help this property make an economic impact in the future.
Now that you know some of the history of Homewood, the best way to explore this Pittsburgh neighborhood is on your own two feet. Start by taking the arts and culture self-guided tour designed by The Homewood Experience, which includes art installations, murals, the Homewood Walk of Fame, historic buildings and more.
The Afro-American Music Institute has been a pillar of the Homewood community for decades, providing instruction on African American music traditions like Jazz and Blues while also giving recording and performing options to undiscovered talents around the city. While primarily a music school, look for performances open to the public like their popular Jazz on the Loading Dock series, Gumbo Fest and workshops on a variety of instruments.
Whether you're on training wheels or a pro BMX rider, the Wheel Mill has been a mainstay of Homewood since 2013. This 80,000-square-foot bike park is the second largest in the U.S. has a variety of public events, camps and classes, plus a full-service bike shop. You simply have to check this place out to believe it.
The five-star ratings abound for 876 Island Spice, with welcoming palm tree decals and a bright green interior to welcome you into this authentic Jamaican restaurant. Everything on this menu is a winner, but the oxtail and jerk chicken are the standout proteins, and be sure to get the cabbage, macaroni salad and fried plantains to make your meal perfect.
As with any truly great barbecue place, get here early. The lunch line for Showcase BBQ usually wraps around the building, and for good reason: showstopping turkey ribs, housemade BBQ sauce and mac & cheese so good you'll be back just for a side of it. Pittsburgh locals know why this hidden gem has been around for 20 years!
Skip the chains. When you're bringing in donuts for the office meeting, stop by Dana's Bakery for home-baked, perfectly glazed goodness. Add on fantastic service and a great price and you'll see why this place is always hopping. Pro Tip: Be sure to get the sweet potato pie.