Whatever happened to the Lower Hill?


For this assignment, I chose an 1872 map of Wards 5, 7, and 8 in Pittsburgh.  I specifically chose this map because the area, known currently as the Lower Hill District, underwent exceptional changes in the mid 20th century.  The residential and small business neighborhood was cleared out for development of the Civic Arena.  Residents argue that the switch from residential to entertainment and parking continues to have a devastating effect on the Hill District nearly sixty years later.

Certainly a lot has changed for the area in 140 years.  However, most of those changes were from the Renaissance period of the 1950s and 1960s.  The PPG Paints Arena, which replaced the Civic Arena which was the cause of the “redevelopment” of the Lower Hill, and parking lots take up a great deal of the area. The Crosstown Boulevard (Interstate 579) was added later, but the damage had already been done to the Lower Hill.

One of the points I used in the rectification was the County Courthouse.  It has remained in the same place.  Other control points were more difficult to find.  I used three different intersections to fully line-up the maps.  It is nearly impossible to use points in the center of the map due to the incredible changes that have occurred.

The original purpose of the 1872 map was to show property ownership and location.  Specifically, I believe that these were used for tax information.  Further information about the maps can be found here.

I really enjoyed this assignment.  It has many uses in digital history, especially in places that have changed dramatically over time.  I would like to make another comparative map of the same area, but with a later Hopkins map that is from the 1930s to see what happened to the Lower Hill closer to the time of its destruction.

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