One of Pittsburgh’s oldest and one of America’s most famous neighborhoods!
The Historic Hill Institute’s goal is to preserve and protect the Historic Hill District. We cultivate stories, preserve culture, and support the people. The people are the most important. We are an active and vibrant community that honors the African American creation of our neighborhood, the multicultural populations that followed and the Black community that remains and sustains.
Founded in 2008, The Historic Hill Institute began as the “Historic Hill Initiative,” meant to be a temporary contribution during the period in which the primary development organization was not receiving funding. The organization did not have the capacity to work on preventing demolitions, advocating for homeowners or highlighting, noting, and listing unofficial and official markers of culturally important spaces and places.
This work quickly turned into an official, long term institution, renamed the Historic Hill Institute.
The Historic Hill Institute is achieving more with our initiatives than ever before, and we are very proud of the progress we continue to make. Below are some of our most recent projects. Learn more about what we do, who we help, and how we work every day to create a lasting impact.
HOMEOWNERSHIP IN THE HILL
One of the key areas of focus here at the Historic Hill Institute is the preservation of the people and the built environment. That begins with the homeowners. Without homeowners, there will s no stable, sustainable community, there are no businesses that last and there is no culture to preserve except on signs and in historic literature. We are a living, breathing vibrant community. We plan to continue to make history, even as the historians record it.
FREEDOM CORNER RESTORATION
Historic Hill Institute has been involved in the Preservation of Freedom Corner for decades. Our latest participation in the Freedom Corner Committee, maintained by Councilman Daniel Lavelle, supports the restoration and upgrade of Freedom Corner, especially after it was hit by a car in 2023. The first accident of its kind, it gave the Committee an opportunity to revitalize this historic monument that both preserves the history of the neighborhood and serves as the platform through which those who wish to gather and speak truth to power, may do so and continue to make history. This is the legacy of Freedom Corner.
Councilman Daniel Lavelle
Dan Wood, Councilman Lavelle’s Office
Harvey Butts, City of Pittsburgh
Darcel Madkins, Consultant
Marimba Milliones, Hill CDC
Sala Udin, Freedom Corner Origin Carlos Peterson, “Spirit Form” Artist
Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, Historic Hill Institute
GREATER HILL DISTRICT MASTER PLAN (GHDMP)
The Historic Hill District has been a co-creator of the Greater Hill District Masterplan since the process began in 2006, playing a significant role in identifying the places of great cultural importance, the preservation of cultural heritage and advocating for official, neighborhood conservation. It is our guide for development and planning in the neighborhood and HUNDREDS of volunteer, Historic Hill residents, helped create it. We are working today to have that plan officially adopted by the City of Pittsburgh.
CHARLES AND FRANKIE PACE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Historic Hill Institute partnered with the University of Pittsburgh’s American Music Institute and Library Systems to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship that yielded a great project. Founder, Dr. Kimberly Ellis, was already working on the Frankie Pace Oral History Project; but did not know about the great historical contributions of her husband, Charles Pace, who was a gospel pioneer and music publisher in his own rite. This amazing partnership has now resulted in the “Charles and Frankie Pace Oral History Project,” the first event of which occurred in March 2023, entitled, “A Gospel Tribute to Charles and Frankie Pace,” where Historic Hill residents, University of Pittsburgh students and the general public participated in a university lecture, a rededication of Frankie Pace Park, with her daughter and grandson bearing witness for the first time and culminating in an amazing exhibit and concert at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The City of Pittsburgh issued a proclamation declaring “Charles and Frankie Pace Day,” as the entire community cheered in celebration! It was a magnificent day and this project is amazing!
THE AUGUST WILSON HOUSE
The Historic Hill Institute preserves and protects the people, the cultural heritage and the built environment of the neighborhood. We admit to having a special relationship with the August Wilson House, as the Founding Executive Director, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, is his maternal niece. It is actually through Wilson’s plays that Ellis began learning the history of the neighborhood in which she grew up and in which she still resides. When what is now known as “The August Wilson House” was initially supported by the Historic Hill Institute, the building that had served as a revolving door for small candy shops that had since closed down and the property left to deteriorate—-was on the demolition list, set to be torn down.
Founding Executive Director and Attorney, Paul Anthony Ellis, Jr., worked with his uncle, August Wilson, to secure the property, built up a Board of persons to manage the budding non-profit and in August 2022, the Historic Hill District, and fans from all around the world, came to celebrate its grand opening. The set of buildings and the landscape around it, coupled with a backyard perfect for outdoor theatre, is a stunning display of ingenuity and pride and serves as the clear economic and cultural anchor of the Historic Hill District!
Support The August Wilson House today, with your contribution, to sustain this great institution!
RIBBON CUTTING AND REDEDICATION OF FRANKIE PACE PARK
Charles and Frankie Pace Day!
Frankie Pace Park had a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 21, 2021. It was a cold and windy day but many elected officials, city workers and some community members attended the event. Then-Governor Tom Wolfe made his appearance, along with County-Elect Rich Fitzgerald and Congressman .
The dedication occurred in March 2023, with the Historic Hill Institute’s partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Lower Hill Redevelopment, with Frankie Pace’s daughter and grandson bearing witness and accepting the honor of a city proclamation for Charles and Frankie Pace Day!
IN THE NEWS
THE HILL DISTRICT HAS A LONGTIME CHAMPION
June 9, 2023
When asked to describe herself, Ellis lands on “scholar and artist and an activist.” She has dedicated decades to serving the community that she has called home since she was 5 years old.
Before becoming the director of community, arts, and culture for the Buccini/Pollin Group, she put in the better part of 25 years volunteering to help better the Hill District. Her work includes, but is not limited to, serving on the committee that edited and created the historic landmark for the August Wilson House, establishing the Historic Hill Institute, leading historical tours through the neighborhood, and co-creating the Greater Hill District Master Plan.
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