The Mystery Houses, 13th Street and Shenandoah Avenue

Update: See the houses on the west side of the street herefrom 2020.

I call these houses the “mystery houses,” and I’ll explain why. They seem to appear on Compton and Dry from 1875, and if you look closely in the lower right corner of the image below, just below the letter R in Summer Street (modern 13th Street), you’ll see them.

What’s so mysterious about them? There’s nothing strange about being built so far back on the lot before 1875 (and they probably date from the 1860s or earlier), but what is with the giant, towering alley buildings, with the hulking rubble stone foundations?

That is the question. Fire insurance maps do not help, though there does seem to be evidence of another alley dwelling to the north of the three-story store seen above and below.

My first gut reaction is these stone foundations were originally built for some sort of industrial concern or factory, but I do not know what it was.

The square window in the middle is interesting, and might point to what this building might have been used for. I would be interested in knowing if any readers have any information about these houses and their alley structures.

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