People born and raised in one city, who grow up as one of many generations in a community, often have a deep understanding of the local history, landscape, and community dynamics. Historic archives are unique because of the way someone from outside a certain community can look at family papers or organization records and discover how people in the past inserted themselves into their community, especially in Pittsburgh neighborhoods, many of which had different majority demographics throughout the centuries. The settling of one such family can be seen in the Writt-Richards Family Papers and Photographs.

The family’s tenure in Pittsburgh began when John T. Writt, Sr., moved from Winchester, Va. with his younger brother, William, to Allegheny County at age 17. They resided in the Homewood neighborhood in Pittsburgh. David S. Richards, born in Middleburg, Va., also moved to Western Pennsylvania in the late 19th century. While the Writt brothers began a successful catering company, Richards worked as a laborer. The son of Richards and his wife, Sarah “Minnie” Arnett, David Doderidge Richards was part of the postal service in Wilkinsburg. He married Emma Bell Writt, which joined the two families. Writt A. Richards worked for the Allegheny Department of Assistance. Along the way, the family brings the Brunges, the French, and the Conley families into the fold. One can find the families’ names alongside groups and organizations such as the Freemasons, the Aurora Reading Club, the National Negro Business League, the Home of Aged and Infirm Colored Women (Lemington Home for the Aged), and the NAACP.

The photographs and documents of this collection show family gatherings, portraits, newspaper clippings, bonds records, and correspondence.

This collection highlight was compiled and written by Iris Afantchao, the summer 2019 Robert F. Smith Intern at the Heinz History Center.