The "Hill," or "Vinegar Hill" as it was sometimes called, was one of five new black neighborhoods that developed during and after the Civil War. The community connected the two antebellum black neighborhoods, the Bottoms and Hayti, and extended African-American settlement south along the waterfront. Ultimately covering 14 square blocks, the Hill included retail and commercial areas as well as residences and schools.
The Hill's name came from the expression "out on the hill" used to refer to the African Americans who moved into the southern city limits during and after the war. The origins of "Vinegar Hill" are unclear, but there were also African-American neighborhoods of that name in Washington, D.C., and in Charlottesville.
Gibbon Street today is reminiscent of how the neighborhood looked in the early 19th century. In 1983, longtime resident Henry Johnson told a researcher the Hill "is the one place in town that I can ride my bike and not be lonesome - it just feels like how it used to feel." The all-male black voluntary association, the Departmental Progressive Club, at 411 Gibbon St., and the Roberts United Memorial Church, at 600-A South Washington St., are reminders of the Hill's African-American heritage.
The Hill neighborhood covered a total area of about 14 blocks. Its northern edge is marked by Wolfe Street, its western edge by South Washington Street, its eastern edge by South Union Street, and the southernmost edge lies between Green Street and Lee Court. The center of the neighborhood was at the intersection of South Royal Street and Gibbon Street. Numerous homes remain along the 400 and 500 blocks of Gibbon Street, along with the Departmental Progressive Club's brick building. The Roberts United Memorial Church is located at 606 South Washington Street.
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South Royal Street and Gibbon Street