97 years ago…a house near the end of Downing Street

Here’s a classic Polish Hill house, photographed on September 29, 1915.  Perched on the hillside — indeed, it seems in danger of falling off the hillside.  The description on the detail shot states that it is “showing earth slip from rear wall”, and part of the yard retaining wall is propped up.  Nothing here looks particularly solid — the rickety stairs up the back, and that door at the bottom of the wall — what could it lead to?  There are windows in the wall, indicating interior space, but people are visible standing (in the yard?) directly above.  Perhaps there’s a sub-sub basement.

In the detail shot there’s a small sumac, a weed tree that still flourishes here, and in the distance, between the fence slats, the valley with smokestacks and industrial buildings.  (Click on the images for a larger view, and then zoom in to look at the details).

The description accompanying these images from the Historic Pittsburgh Image Archive indicate that this house was located at 320 Downing Street.  A City plat map from 1914 shows that number 320 had houses on either side of it, but some buildings were set back from the street, near the edge of the hillside, so it’s possible that this is one of those.  The building may have ultimately collapsed or been demolished.  The hillsides of Polish Hill have suffered erosion over the years; today, the hill behind this street falls away, and a search on the Allegheny County Real Estate Site doesn’t list a 320 Downing.