Pittsburgh developed in the aftermath of the Civil War as citizens moved away from the dirt and congestion caused by the convergence of three railroads near Five Points in downtown Atlanta. In 1883, the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway completed construction of extensive shops in the area. Because the areas surrounding the shops were polluted and dirty, much like those around steel mills, the community was nicknamed Pittsburgh after the Pennsylvania steel town. Many of its residents worked there as railroad laborers.
The neighborhood was founded as a predominantly African-American community where steady employment and segregated conditions gave birth to many black-owned homes, businesses,churches, and schools, especially along McDaniel Street. Four streetcar lines served the Pittsburgh neighborhood, providing convenient access to downtown and other neighborhoods.
Carrie Steele Logan, a former slave and a maid at the Atlanta Union Railroad Station, used funds raised from the sale of her autobiography and other contributions to purchase four acres of land in Pittsburgh during the late 1800s. There she founded the Carrie Steele Orphan Home, which continues to care for abandoned and neglected children at a new site in northwest Atlanta.
Ariel Bowen United Methodist Church helped found the community’s first school – the Pittsburgh School – by housing it in the church’s basement. The school later moved into a two-room rented building and became part of the Fulton County School System. In 1908, 200 students were enrolled. The following year, residents raised money to construct a wooden building to house the school and renamed it Crogman School in honor of Dr. William H. Crogman, Clark College’s first African-American president. The Fulton County School Board contributed a meager $75 towards this new construction.
In 1922, the current structure of Crogman Elementary School was built at the request of Carrie Badger Pittman. Crogman continued to educate young residents until 1979, also offering academic and vocational classes to adults in the evenings. While the former Crogman School has now been converted into apartment homes, senior housing and a community center,today’s students attend Charles L. Gideons Elementary School and Parks Middle School (the only middle school located in NPU-V), both located in the Pittsburgh community. The Atlanta Theological School was founded on Pittsburgh’s western border and continues today as the Salvation Army College for Officer Training.
For the past 30 years,Pittsburgh has seen a great deal of property disinvestment, loss of population, and a general decline in the neighborhood economy. Many longtime residents point to integration and redlining as significant factors in the decline of the neighborhood. Integration caused the decline of black-owned businesses as their customer base dispersed. Redlining by financial institutions prevented residents from selling their homes and, as African Americans moved farther west into transitional areas formerly occupied by whites in the 1940s, 1950sand, increasingly in the 1960s, they vacated their homes. The homes quickly fell into disrepair.
These negative impacts were increased in the 1960sand early 1970s by the construction of Interstate75/85, which cut off the southeast section of the neighborhood from the rest of the city; the construction of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, which widened roads and brought heavy traffic to the neighborhood; and the Model Cities Program that brought unfulfilled hopes and the replacement of many single-family homes with multi-family units. From 1970 to 2000, the population of Pittsburgh dropped by more than half from 7,276 to 3,286.
The Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association (PCIA) was reorganized by residents of the community in 2001 to combat this decline and is now spearheading neighborhood revitalization efforts. PCIA has lobbied the city to demolish neighborhood homes that have fallen into disrepair. They have also organized a neighborhood garden and are beginning a neighborhood watch program to increase safety and build relationships among the residents. PCIA is also working with developers to rebuild the Pittsburgh Civic League Apartments. The Salvation Army supports community efforts through training and school programs. The area includes several dozen churches of various sizes as well as a large stock of relatively affordable homes and recently completed or planned apartment complexes.
Data Source: Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association pamphlet.