The neighborhood underwent its first major demographic shift in the 1890s, as expanding trolley lines transformed Homewood into a “streetcar suburb.” As travel to and from the neighborhood became easier, rich, white estate owners left the neighborhood, making room for Pittsburgh’s growing middle class. Homes were built rapidly to accommodate the influx of residents who were mainly Italian, German, and Irish immigrants (Green).
Another major change occurred in the 1950s when the construction of the Civic Arena displaced more than 8,000 residents of the Lower Hill District. Many of these displaced families were black, and ultimately relocated to Homewood, then a community of mostly Italian immigrant families. As the relocation of black Pittsburghers into Homewood rose, many white families moved out, with the neighborhood’s black population rising from 22 percent in 1950 to 66 percent in 1960, although Homewood’s overall population shrank during that period. (Green) At this time, the entire city was losing its heavy manufacturing base that had created and sustained the working class (Logan).
Change came to Homewood again in the late 1960s. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. led to riots across the country, including in Pittsburgh. And the Civil Rights Act of 1968 guaranteed the right of African Americans to live where they chose. This led to many Homewood residents to move to suburban neighborhoods like Penn Hills, resulting in a sharp decline in Homewood’s population from 20,266 in 1970 to 15,158 by 1980 (Green).
Civic groups had always been present in Homewood, but by 1980 no single group could tackle all the problems facing the neighborhood. This resulted in the creation of the Homewood-Brushton Revitalization and Development Corporation in 1983, which led to the construction of a Dairy Queen and Rite-Aid as well as the creation of a newspaper, several townhouses, and radio station. The HRBDC has been inactive for nearly two decades now, but other organizations such as Operation Better Block and the East End Community and Collaborative have stepped up to help revitalize the neighborhood (Green).