A story in partnership with PublicSource: How decades at Pittsburgh's Hill House shaped the lives of these three women | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A story in partnership with PublicSource: How decades at Pittsburgh's Hill House shaped the lives of these three women

click to enlarge Melvie Blackwell poses for a portrait in front of the building of the former James F. Henry Hill House Center in the Hill District. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Melvie Blackwell poses for a portrait in front of the building of the former James F. Henry Hill House Center in the Hill District.
For five decades, the Hill House served as a community anchor in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Residents across generations saw it as a community center, a hub for services such as dental care and work training, and a venue for local performers and headliners like Grammy Award-winning artist John Legend. It also acted as a neighborhood employer.
click to enlarge Irma Coy poses for a portrait at the Thelma Lovette YMCA in the Hill District. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Irma Coy poses for a portrait at the Thelma Lovette YMCA in the Hill District.
Its legacy stretches back through much of the 20th century to several community organizations that merged to eventually create the Hill House Association in 1964. But financial struggles led the Hill House Association to shrink its staff from the nearly 300 employees it had a decade ago and eventually close its doors, selling four of its facilities in June 2019 to E Properties and the Hill Community Development Corporation.
click to enlarge Edna Council poses for a portrait inside of her home in the Hill District. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Edna Council poses for a portrait inside of her home in the Hill District.
While some of the organization’s community mission will live on in those buildings, the Hill House itself is now gone. It remains a cherished memory for residents and for former employees like Irma Coy, 76; Edna Council, 88; and Melvie Blackwell, 84.

Each of these women worked at the Hill House for decades. They lived through its heyday and also stayed closely involved in their retirement. For them, the organization provided an opportunity for stable employment, and sometimes served as a place of comfort during difficult times.
As part of an ongoing partnership, Pittsburgh City Paper has teamed up with PublicSource, Pittsburgh's nonprofit digital-first news organization, in bringing our readers more local news stories. You can read the rest of this week's story by Renee P. Aldrich in our print issue on stands this week, or online at PublicSource here.

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