Greater Hazelwood Historical Society Keeps Eye On The Past While Neighborhood Builds For The Future
Like many areas in Pittsburgh, renovations and major structural changes are taking place in the city’s Hazelwood neighborhood. It is with that in mind that JaQuay Edward Carter says he started the Greater Hazelwood Historical Society in 2018 with an eye toward “restoring neighborhood pride and preserving the pillars of our community’s past.”
“It was actually founded at a time when the focus on the community’s development was the future,” Carter said. “Without any regard to the historic preservation of the buildings and places and spaces that were beloved by many members of the community.”
He started by compiling old images and speaking with residents who have lived and experienced the neighborhood’s changes. In fact, Hazelwood is where the city’s last active steel mill was located, and Carter says part of the impetus for starting the historical society was to uphold the essence of the area and its steelmaking past.
He adds that it is imperative to continue the rich traditions of the neighborhood by bridging the gap between generations.
“I'm on the phone with a lot of older people—all the time—talking to them as mentors and confidants so I'm going to impart that wisdom onto the youth,” Carter said.
And the neighborhood’s history is rich, Carter says, and extends beyond its role in the steel industry. Take, for instance, to the little known fact that a game created by Hugh J. Ward that spread worldwide originated in Hazelwood.
“The game of bingo was created here in Hazelwood in the 1920s and went on to be worldwide famous and I actually was able to find the records to support all of those things,” Carter said. “Where [Ward] lived at the time when the game was invented he copyright at the game even the house where he died in, in the 1940s is still there.”
Devin Igles, a Hazelwood native and senior at South Allegheny High School, says his involvement with the historical society has given him a newfound appreciation for his native neighborhood.
“Now every time I go through Hazelwood, I look at it like it's a whole new place,” Igles said. “Down on the main road there were more buildings and [JaQuay] really taught me about the history about the community of Hazelwood and how I can help.”
Historical Society board member, MaryAnn McHarg says she and long time residents are excited about the growth and development of the organization.
“This is really what's going to be there to tell the narrative of Hazelwood what I'd like to call the integrity of the neighborhood,” McHarg said. “I think that it's important not just in the sense of preserving what is good but also preserving the trials and the tribulations and the resilience of the people.”
Although there is no physical space for the Hazelwood Historical Society at the moment, the renovation of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Hazelwood Branch, built in 1899 will serve as the offices that also serve as a museum filled with artifacts for people to visit.
In particular, Carter says he hopes the museum gives young people a better grasp on Hazelwood’s past as they begin to shape the neighborhood’s future.
"They actually are going to be the next generation to change the world,” Carter said. “So, they have to know what happened before them to fully understand how to go into the future where they come from what happened before them all that is so important."