The Smithfield East End Cemetery, which is across South Dallas Avenue from The Homewood Cemetery, is a venerated site. It began as a church grave yard to the oldest organized church in the City of Pittsburgh—the first German Evangelical Protestant Church—which was founded in Pittsburgh in 1782 by German Lutheran and Reformed settlers. At that time, the village of Pittsburgh consisted of about 35 houses, mostly log cabins.
In 1787, descendants of William Penn granted the small congregation a property on Smithfield Street that was large enough for a church, rectory, and cemetery.
In the mid- 19th century, these early cemeteries were seriously threatened by urban burial problems. Pittsburgh’s graveyards had become overcrowded at the time when rising real estate values made it impossible to expand or create new burial grounds. There also was a growing criticism that many of these non-taxable spaces were offensive, unsightly, and unhealthy. Inevitably, Pittsburgh’s downtown development threatened these old burial grounds and many were moved to the outer limits of the city.
In 1860, the downtown Smithfield Street Cemetery was closed and removed to Troy Hill, and businesses and residential buildings were constructed on the old site. Encountering a similar fate at its new location, the cemetery was again moved: In 1886, a 26-acre site was purchased in Squirrel Hill and removals began with the subsequent closing of Smithfield’s Troy Hill cemetery in 1888.
A new chapter in the cemetery’s history began in 2002 when the Smithfield church (now Smithfield United Church of Christ) relinquished ownership to The Homewood Cemetery—its neighbor across the street. The new arrangement continues to provide a high level of service and commitment to preserve its significant history—particularly that of Pittsburgh’s early German population and their valuable contributions to the city’s and country’s growth.