For many years during the early
development of the inner city, an obstacle called Grant's Hill rose
between Diamond and Sixth Street. The mound was an impediment to travel
and growth along Grant Street. The city made three efforts to grade the
land, in total shaving nearly 33 feet from the surface and leveling off
On May 26, 1836, a city ordinance
was passed authorizing the initial grading of Grant's Hill, familiarly
known as "The Hump". A cut of ten feet in Fifth Avenue hill just east
of Central City. In December of 1849 a second seven-foot cut was made
into the hump.
Finally, in 1912, work was begun
to remove the hump for good. Extensive excavating was done between
Diamond and Sixth Streets, with the cut at Wylie Street, near the Courthouse,
running as deep as 16.3 feet. Grant Street and Oliver Street were both
By 1914, the project was completed.
It cost the city $800,000 and another $2,500,000 in property damages, but
the results were worth the effort. Travel was simplified for all concerned,
horses, trolleys and vehicles and pedestrians. Although many buildings
were damaged, repairwork often left the structures looking better than
Take for instance, the Frick Building
on Grant Street. The pillars along Grant Street once went to ground level, but
they now rest several feet above ground level and the entranceway is enlarged
downwards to make up for the added space. This is but one example. Several
buildings today show signs of alteration to bring their ground floors level
with the streets.
Some of the earth and stone from
The Hump was used to fill in a small off-shoot of Panther Hollow known as
St. Pierre's Ravine, in the central portion of Pittsburgh's Oakland section.
This new land became Schenley Plaza and includes the present site of the
Henry Clay Frick Fine Arts Building, Library, and Auditorium of the University
of Pittsburgh. Interestingly, when filling in St. Pierre's Ravine to create
Schenley Plaza, a stone arch bridge known as the Bellefield Bridge crossing
the ravine was literally buried where it stood.