Grant's Hill
Removal of "The Hump"

The line shows the old level of the street
 prior to the cut in 1912.

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 the area.

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 leveled.

Marion Shovel working in the cut near
 Fifth Avenue and Grant Street.    The cut - Fifth Avenue near Grant Street.

Workers excavating the hump near Oliver Street.    A manhole seems to rise as the street surface

Work proceeds near Oliver and Wylie Streets.    Working near the County Courthouse and Jail.

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, repair work often left the structures looking better than before.

The Frick Building shows signs of the 1912
 cut. The lower floor was once underground and the pillars at ground level

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.

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