On the northern edge of the Hill District, with expansive views of the Strip, the Allegheny River & the North Side, August Wilson Park is set to re-open this July. The 1.1 acre park (formerly known as Cliffside) was “pretty beat-up looking” in 2010 when the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy started fundraising & planning designs with Hill District stakeholders.
The park’s $1.3 million renovation features a mural by Leslie Ansley inspired by neighborhood children, an installation of Teenie Harris photographs & artwork by the park’s new namesake “incorporated into a rolling, ADA-compliant landscape.” The active park will also include a half basketball court, playground areas for children of various ages & picnic tables.
Heather McClain is featuring the park’s transition & its stories in the debut of her documentary series Neglected Histories. With experience in radio production & videography study at Filmmakers, McClain seeks to “explore her interests in neighborhoods, architecture, topography and the generational transitions of place.”
She’s already gotten footage of the Cliffside Park construction and conditions of the August Wilson childhood home nearby. She has her eye on old houses, schools, churches, corner stores, playgrounds — places near death that once looked loved & places that are being rescued to be loved again.
Before the park was created in 1975, Cassatt Street went all the way down to the cliff, and houses lined each side. It’s amazing to think how many people once lived throughout the Hill District. Those who left took their stories with them, and many of their houses are gone, too.
McClain wants tell the before” & “after” as deeply as possible in the sites she features, using old photos and videos, current footage & interviews. “I see this as biographies that treat a place like a person,” she says, “talking to the people who remember it and getting their stories about it.”