This short history attempts to explore
the first 250 years of the Brookline area. Most of this information
was retrieved from old Brookline Journal articles, dating from the 1950s, that
detailed bits and pieces of Brookline's history up to that point. It is
supplemented by some personal recollections of long-time residents of the
community. We have tried to piece all of these articles and memories into one
essay. With certain limitations, Brookline 250 provides an interesting look
back in time. Explore the highlighted links for more detailed information
from The Brookline Connection.
Brookline Boulevard, near the intersection with Glenarm Avenue, in 1933.
Prior to 1900, Brookline Boulevard was a
dirt roadway, known as Hunter Avenue (from West Liberty to Pioneer)
and Knowlson Avenue (from Pioneer to
Whited), that connected the many family owned farms that made up the
A Great City Will Grow
On November 23, 1753, George Washington, a twenty-one year old major in the British Colonial Army,
surveyed the land surrounding the junction of the Monongahela River
and the Belle Riviere. The young major predicted that on this spot
there would someday grow a great city. He recommended that militia by
dispatched with all haste to construct a fort.
Due to the strategic significance of
the land now known as "The Point", the junction was a prized possession to
any occupying force, offering control of all river traffic to the western
frontier. The French needed dominance over the Ohio River Valley to
consolidate their colonial interests in Canada (then known as New France)
and Louisiana. The British had other designs for the region. The crown and
increasing numbers of colonial settlers were looking to expand their
territorial boundaries beyond the Appalachians.
The French insisted that they had
claim to the region by right of first discovery. The British countered
that the land fell under their control by virtue of a treaty with the
Five-Nation Iroquois Confederacy. Both empires felt that their claims were
justified, and each expended great manpower and resources to gain dominance
over this advantagious location.
The British and The French
Heeding Washington's advice,
the British rushed a small garrison to the river junction and constructed a
small stockade called Fort Prince George. The French responded by sending
strong force, including many of their indian allies, that overwhelmed the vastly
outnumbered British. The garrison surrendered on April 17, 1754 and began the
long march back to Virginia. A new, much larger French outpost was built on the
spot, named Fort Duquesne.
In the meantime, Major Washington
had been dispatched with a regiment of Virginians to reinforce the garrison.
Washington's troops first encountered the French at a skirmish known as the
Jumonville Affair. The french patrol was routed and their commander killed.
On July 4, 1754, the French counterattacked in force. Washington and his
militiamen were beseiged at Fort Necessity and compelled to
These local events marked the formal
beginning of the French and Indian War. To the chagrin of the British, the
empire of France now had complete control over the region and, most
importantly, the river junction.
In February of 1755, General Edward
Braddock was sent with two colonial regiments and 500 British
regulars, including artillery, to evict the French force. On July 8, 1755,
the British column was ambushed as it approached Fort Duquesne and suffered
another serious setback. Now a colonel, George Washington was present for
this monumental defeat. After the death of General Braddock, Washington took
charge and led the retreat back to Virginia.
The defeat at the Battle of the
Monongahela reverberated throughout the British Colonial Empire. Stung by
this loss, and determined to regain control of the region, the British struck
back three years later. On November 25, 1758, General John Forbes and an
army of 6000 British and Colonial troops forced the French to burn their
fort and retreat north. Forbes and his men had claimed
the river junction for the British Empire once and for all.
General Forbes ordered the
construction of a much larger and stronger fort. It was built over the
ruins of Fort Duquesne and named Fort Pitt. Forbes christened the area
Pittsborough. The village was chartered in 1759, named in honor
of the Prime Minister of England, William Pitt.
The colony at Pittsborough grew
rapidly around the fort, which was one of the largest British strongholds
in North America. Settlers and traders began to migrate to the surrounding
areas, including the rolling hills to the south of Coal Hill.
These early pioneers provided goods and services for the many British
troops and the growing frontier population.
Indians on the Warpath
By 1763, the final year of
the French and Indian War, the British had control of much of northeastern
North America. Most of the native Indian tribes were displeased by their
treatment from the British occupiers. The main concern of the Indians was
the continued settlement of people along the western frontier, which in
1763, included the Ohio River basin.
An Indian leader named Pontiac began
organizing many Indian tribes together to rebel against the British.
Pontiac's force included groups from the Delaware, Huron, Illinois,
Kickapoo, Miami, Potawatomie, Seneca, Shawnee, Ottawa, and Chippewa tribes.
An Indian War, known as Pontiac's War, began in 1763.
Pontiac wanted to drive the British
back to the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains. Many small British
outposts were overrun and the Indians were on the verge of total victory.
The only remaining outposts west of the Appalachians were at Fort Detroit,
Fort Pitt, Fort Ligonier and a handful of other outposts.
The Siege of Pittsborough lasted
eighty-six days from May to August 1763.
In May of 1763, the Indians attacked.
Their assault began in the north and swept south towards the village of
Pittsborough. The natives burned all cabins and massacred all of the white
settlers in the outlying areas. Only those fortunate enough to find sanctuary
inside the fort survived. From May 27 to August 9, Pontiac's warriors laid
seige to Fort Pitt. During this time they made several unsuccessful attempts
to storm the fort.
British Colonel Henry Bouquet led
a relief expedition, which was ambushed as they approached the village.
Bouquet's force successfully counterattacked during the Battle of Bushy Run and defeated the natives. This victory
effectively lifted the seige of Pittsborough. Without the assistance of the
French, who were near surrender themselves, the Indians were soon forced to
abandon their campaign to drive the British from their lands. The frontier
was now open to westward colonial expansion and settlement.
Colonel Bouquet's Highlanders defeat
Pontiac's warriors at the Battle of Bushy Run.
Settlers once again began to migrate
into the area, and Pittsborough again began to build and expand. The restless
natives, now settled in Ohio, remained a deterent to further westward
expansion. Sporadic hostilities continued off and on for three years.
Fort Pitt became a staging area for
several military expeditions against the native tribes. Not until 1766 was
a formal treaty signed. Despite the agreement, conflicts persisted along the
upper Allegheny River until 1779, and Fort Pitt remained a valuable military
Control of the fort passed to the
colonial militia in 1772. The British garrisons abandoned the area never
to return. During the War of Independence, there was very little activity
in the western part of Pennsylvania. The majority of the conflict was
fought in the eastern coastal theatre.
In 1783, that conflict ended and a
new nation was born, the United States of America. Fort Pitt remained a
United States Army facility until permanently decommissioned in 1797. The
fort was dismantled and the materials used in local construction
Rapid Development of Pittsburgh
After the end of the Revolutionary War,
the borough of Pittsburgh began to expand at a more rapid pace. After years
of being a garrison town, the town now found a new identity. With frontier
expansion booming, Pittsburgh soon became known as the "Gateway to the
The discovery of valuable natural
resources and reliable river passages made Pittsburgh an important stop
for migrant settlers on their journey west. It also became a valuable hub
for commerce and shipping.
This fueled the expansion and growth
of industry in Pittsburgh. Gristmills, print shops, glassworks, ship building
and the iron
industry flourished. By
the dawn of the 19th century, millions of people heading west traveled through
the area. The City of Pittsburgh was officially chartered in 1816.
The Carnegie Steel Works in Homestead. The
iron and steel industry flourished throughout the Pittsburgh area.
The abundance of coal in the
nearby hills led to the rapid development of the coal industry, which fed
the fires of the expanding industrial base, not to mention the home heating
needs of the growing local population. Numerous mining
ventures moved into the
lands east and south of the city.
The rolling, well-watered lands to
the south of Coal Hill were also considered prime farmland. Family farms
were a common site throughout the South Hills, including West Liberty Borough
and the present-day Brookline area.
Settlement of the South Hills
- St. Clair Township
After the American Revolution,
soldiers of the Pennsylvania Militia were granted land by the State
Legislature in lieu of payment for their services during the War of
Independence. These veterans filed their claims in Philadelphia
and became the first official American settlers in the South
Hills. A track of 395 acres, patented in 1786 to David Strawbridge, in
pursuance of the Virginia Certificate, was called "Castle
David Strawbridge's 1786 land grant
that later became the municipality of Castle Shannon.
<Survey Maps and Deeds of Original South Hills
A search of old records reveals the
family names of Strawbridge, McKee, Shawhan, Kennedy, Fleming, Hunter,
Hayes, McDermott, McDowell, Hughey, Broddy, and Brison. In the 19th
Century, we find such families as Espy, Plummer, Paul, Lang, Schaffner,
Kerr, Sylvester, Fetterman and Knowlson. The area was a prosperous farming
Prior to the erection of Allegheny
County in 1788, the district was part of Westmoreland and Washington Counties.
Civic-minded citizens had to travel long distances over poor roads in order to
cast their ballot on election days.
The earliest voting place was at
Shawhen's Square (later Colonel Espy's Tanyards) at Pioneer and West Liberty
Avenues. After 1788, they voted at Obey's Place on Carson Street, where the
Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company station now stands.
This region was termed the lower
district of St. Clair, which gave the township its name. When Allegheny
County was formed on September 24, 1788, the area presently known as
Brookline was a part of Lower St. Clair Township.
<1787 Petition with Signatories for
the Creation of Allegheny County>
Signatories include Joseph McDermutt,
David Kennedy, Joseph McDowell, Robert Shawhen and John McKee,
all prominent landowners of property that make up the boundaries of
Upon the erection of Allegheny County
the court proceeded to divide the County of Allegheny into three distinct
sections. The first section included the townships south of the Ohio River
and south and west of the Monongahela River. The second section is the part
that lies between the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. The third section included
the tract north of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers.
The first section included three
townships: Moon, St Clair and Mifflin. St. Clair Township occupied the
southeastern corner of South Fayette, part of Snowden, the whole of Baldwin,
Upper and Lower St. Clair (Brookline/West Liberty). Lower St. Clair
once included within its boundaries present-day Beechview, Brookline,
Beltzhoover, Allentown, Overbrook and St. Clair Village.
A notable early settler in St. Clair
Township was William Dilworth. William was born in 1791 when Pittsburgh was
still a straggling village connected by row boat ferries with the nearby
settlements of Allegheny (North Side) and Birmingham (South Side). His father
was an early entreprenuer in the local coal industry.
Coal mining was the first major
enterprise in the South Hills.
At age 21, Dilworth joined
General William Harrison's army during the 1812 campaign against the British
and Indians. After the war, William settled on Mount Washington. He opened
some of the first mines to supply Pittsburgh with coal. He was married in 1817
to Elizabeth Scott, daughter of Colonel Samuel Scott of Ross Township.
Dilworth built what may have been the
first school house in lower St. Clair township to give free schooling to the
children of the miners in his employ. He paid the teacher out of his pocket
and purchased books for the pupils. The school building was erected in 1820
near the present-day South Portal of the Liberty Tunnels.
William Dilworth paid $15 per acre for
the coal lands he purchased south of Pittsburgh. During the the latter part
of his life he sold parcels of the same land for $3000 per acre. In the mid-1830s
he was instrumental in building a court house and jail in Pittsburgh, and later
built the piers of the old Monongahela Bridge, which was destroyed in
the Great Fire of April 10, 1845.
In 1847, Dilworth was elected to the
Legislature and served one session. Later, in 1859, he had a church built,
possibly the first in the area, near the old school house at junction of
West Liberty Avenue and Warrington Avenue.
Map from 1876 showing West Liberty
West Liberty Borough was incorporated on March 7, 1876. The borough boundaries were
drawn from the western part of Lower St. Clair Township, with Saw Mill Run
Creek being nearly identical with the eastern and northern boundaries. The
village proper was described as a small hamlet on the old Pittsburgh and
While the adjacent areas of Mount
Washington and the countryside along the line of the Castle Shannon railroad
(Fairhaven) were comparatively thickly settled, West Liberty was sparcely
populated. Most of the land was made up of farms, with some residential areas
that were principally occupied by men employed in the numerous coal mines
owned by William Dilworth.
The population of West Liberty Borough
was 865 in 1880. The Fetterman post office zone that covered the West Liberty
boundaries was established in June 1876. Mary Beltzhoover, who resided along
West Liberty Avenue just south of Capital Avenue, was the postmistress.
The surface of West Liberty Borough
was much the same as the rest of Allegheny County, hilly and broken.
Numerous small streams flow through it and springs are exceedingly abundant,
thus affording plenty of water and power for manufacturing purposes. Coal
was the staple production of the township, although agricultural pursuits
were extensively carried on.
By the dawn of the 20th century, when
the local mines were beginning to close, the locality was practically all
farms. It was then a common sight in the summer evenings to see a constant
line of market wagons on their way to the city with produce.
Another 1876 map of the Pittsburgh area
showing the City of Pittsburgh and West Liberty Borough.
The Birth of Brookline
In the earliest days of frontier
settlement, an old Indian trail ran roughly along the path of Pioneer
Avenue and Castlegate Avenue to a small farm and trading post run by
the McNeeley family. The outpost was known to the natives as Chimney Town,
and the trail was called the Chimney Town Road. This may well have been
the earliest known designation of the area that was to one day become
The area which now comprises
Brookline was settled prior to 1800. Many of these early settlers were
veterans of the American Revolution, and had served under General
Washington. The soldiers were issued land grants as
payment for their services to the country.
They tilled the soil and
developed a prosperous farming district. Boggs Grist Mill, near the
lower end of Pioneer Avenue, ground their grain. Colonel Espy's
Tanyards, near the opposite upper end of Pioneer, furnished the
leather for their boots, saddles and harnesses.
A 1905 Freehold Real Estate advertisement
showing Brookline's proximity to Pittsburgh.
Fleming Place/Hughey Farms Real
Estate Advertisements from 1902
Estate Advertisements from 1905-1907
Estate Brochures from 1924-1926
Estate Advertisements from 1930
Situated in Lower St. Clair Township,
the area we now call Brookline was part of the borough of West Liberty,
which also included much of present-day Beechview. From the colonial
days until the dawn of the 20th century, the area was sparsely
The addition of trolley service to
the South Hills in 1904 brought a new era of prosperity to West Liberty Borough.
Investors and developers flocked to the region and soon the rural farming
community began to take on a more urban look.
The Kapsch family lived at 1114 Milan
Avenue. Joseph and Amelia Kapsch both immigrated from
Europe and settled in Brookline in 1906. They were farmers and the family
was one of the
original 12 members of Resurrection Parish. The picture shows some of the
children, at home with their donkey in 1909.
Brookline was never incorporated
as a separate and distinct municipality but was merged with the City of
Pittsburgh in 1908, and was made part of the original 44th Ward. By the
mid-1900s, it comprised the 21st to the 27th election districts of the
19th Ward. (NOTE: It now comprises part of the 19th and 32nd Wards of the
City of Pittsburgh, and is made up of West Liberty, East Brookline,
Ebenshire Village, and Brookline - although the name "Brookline" is now
assigned to the entire area.)
See Maps Showing Brookline Subdivisions
Pioneer Avenue was a State Road
Pioneer Avenue was established in
1797 as the State Road from Pittsburgh to Washington and was later known as
the upper road from Boggs Mill and also the Coal Hill and Upper St. Clair
Turnpike road. It was an artery of major importance because it connected
the old Township road (now Warrington Avenue) with the Morgantown Road
(now Banksville Road) across Mt. Washington and the road from Millersville,
which is at the foot of Greentree Road at Independence Street, West End.
Pioneer Avenue was, at the time, the only main thoroughfare to reach the
city from the south.
Wenzel Avenue, which originally led from Pioneer Avenue
to Greentree Road, was laid out in 1832. Plumer's Run, now known as West
Liberty Avenue, from the Bell House to Pioneer Avenue, was laid out in 1839.
Since the community had no brick yards or saw mills, all builders' supplies
had to be hauled over these poor roads, with the wagons often sinking hub
deep in mud.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection
with Stetson Street in March 1915, before the roadway was widened.
When the original street
car line was laid along West Liberty Avenue, the road was paved between
the rails only, and it remained so until 1915 when it was widened and improved. Whited Street is a former Township road
and, with the exception of a few streets, such as McNeilly Road, Brookline Boulevard, and the aforementioned streets, practically all other streets
were created by virtue of lot plan developments, principally by the West
Liberty Development Company between 1905 and 1908.
Early Commercial Enterprises
Among the early commercial
enterprises were Espy's Tanyards, located at the upper end of Pioneer and
West Liberty Avenues. Here, leather was supplied for boots, saddles and
harnesses. Schaffner's Wagon Building and Repair
Shop was also located
at this end of Pioneer Avenue. Boggs Grist Mill was situated at the other
end of Pioneer and West Liberty Avenues, in present-day Dormont. At a later
date, the Pittsburgh Coal Company's power
plant was at Wenzel Way
and West Liberty Avenue, while across the road was Kerr's Blacksmith and Horseshoe
The Old Bell House Tavern, near West
Liberty Avenue and Warrington Avenue, in 1890.
Wilhelm's General Store, later J. Claude Groceries was
located across from Pauline Avenue on West Liberty Avenue; the only store being
Algeo's at Washington and Bower Hill Roads. Food, drink, and lodging were to be had
at Beltzhoover's Tavern at the foot of Capital Avenue, Hayes Tavern at
the southern end of Pioneer and West Liberty Avenue, and the old Bell House, which
stood near the present Liberty Tunnels on Warrington Avenue.
Ways To Travel
Transportation from the South Hills
to Pittsburgh in the early days was slow and difficult. A long and arduous
wagon ride up Bausman Street and down Arlington Avenue was one alternative.
Another was to travel to Mount Washington and use
the inclines to traverse the hillsides.
Travelers that could afford a ticket
could reach the city by way of the narrow gauge Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, which followed the general course of the
Shannon Drake streetcar line. Passengers would take the Haberman Avenue Cable
Car up to Mount Washington, then down the Castle Shannon Incline to Carson
Street. From there they traveled by horse car into the city.
The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Incline
was in operation from 1890 to 1964.
Most of the coal mined around
Brookline was hauled on the P&CSRR through a Mount Washington tunnel, The
portal of the old coal tunnel was at the curve in Sycamore Street, directly
above the present-day transit tunnel. Once in Pittsburgh, the coal was
semt down to the factories on Carson Street via an old coal incline.
By 1902, the horse-drawn Charleroi
streetcar line ran the length of West Liberty Avenue, extending to many South
Hills communities. This single-track line passed the Brookline Junction, at
West Liberty Avenue and Hunter Avenue (Brookline Boulevard) and continued to
Mount Lebanon. This made travel easier for South Hills residents, but there
was still no direct link to the city, except for the long
trip over Mount Washington.
Within a few short years, man made
huge strides in transportation. In 1903, the Wright Brothers historic
flight and Henry Ford's first automobile were actualities. The streetcar
tunnel under Mount
Washington was opened in 1904.
The South Hills Trolley Junction in 1906.
Note the billboard advertising homes in Brookline. On the hillside
above is a train of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad heading outbound
The transit tunnel was a phenomenal
breakthrough for the South Hills. The existing trolley line was electrified,
with several extensions built to connect the many developing neighborhoods. It
shortened the trip to Pittsburgh by miles and hours. It gave impetus to the
West Liberty Development Company and other real estate firms, from 1905 to 1908,
to lay out streets and lots in the portion of West Liberty Borough which was to become Brookline.
All Dirt Roads
At the turn of the 20th century all
roads were dirt and there were no sidewalks. The heavy traffic, which was
mostly horses and wagons, cut deep ruts into the roads so that in wet
weather the mud was often axle deep. Pedestrians fared no better.
Finally, Reverend Jones of
the Knowlson Methodist Church, located at the Brookline Junction with West
Liberty Avenue, with the help of a friend, secured funds to purchase
boards for a boardwalk. With the help of the community, the boards were
laid from the city line to the Old Bell House at Saw Mill Run and West
Liberty Avenue. This was the first public improvement in the area.
A view of Rossmore Avenue, as seen from Pioneer
Avenue, in 1925.
The West Liberty Development
Company began laying out lots in the Brookline area in 1905. This new
residential section attracted so many people that in February of 1907
West Liberty Borough voted for annexation into the city of Pittsburgh.
On the first Monday in January, 1908, it was annexed to the city as the
44th ward. Brookline became the 19th ward in 1910 when the city of
Allegheny was also annexed into the city of Pittsburgh.
A family in their horse and buggey approach
the intersection of Woodbourne and Sussex Avenue in 1924.
The paving of Brookline streets began
shortly after annexation. Some of the original roads to be paved were
Brookline Boulevard and streets close by, like Berkshire, Bellaire and Chelton.
These streets were paved with either road bricks or belgian block. Streets like
Rossmore, Gallion, Woodbourne and much of Pioneer Avenue were not paved until
the mid-1920s. Parts of Berwin Avenue remained unpaved until the
Many Brookline streets were covered in
paving bricks, like Berkshire Avenue, shown here in 1923.
Other Brookline streets were covered in larger, granite blocks. Unlike todays
covered roadways, these bricks were installed to stand the test of time.
Are They Called
Cobblestones or Belgian Blocks?
There is some debate over the
proper term for the stones that were used to pave many of Brookline's streets,
like Rossmore, Flatbush, Capital and Birchland. Were the called "cobblestones"
or "belgian blocks." The answer is belgian blocks, and the official answer
might sound a bit strange:
Setts, or Belgian Blocks (left) and
A SETT, usually referred to in the
plural and known in some places as a Belgian block, is a broadly rectangular
quarried stone used for paving roads. Formerly in more widespread use, it is
now encountered more as a decorative stone paving in landscape architecture.
Setts are often idiomatically referred to as "cobbles", although a sett is
distinct from a cobblestone by being quarried or shaped to a regular form,
whereas the latter is generally of a naturally occurring form. Setts are
usually made of granite.
For a more detailed history
of setts, visit Wikipedia (Setts).
Berwin Avenue in red paving bricks and
Beaufort Avenue in Belgian Blocks - April 2014.
Street Car Service
The first streetcar railway south of
the Monongahela River was a horse-drawn car line, which operated from Carson
Street to Thirtieth Street. In the winter the floor was covered with straw
to keep the passengers feet warm. Horse-drawn rail traffic was established
in the South Hills in the early 1800s, but there were only a few routes
available. The first electric cars were used in this part of the city in
1890 and were controlled by the Pittsburgh and Birmingham Traction Company.
The cars seated about 25 people. One such route extended from Warrington
Avenue south along West Liberty Avenue to Mount Lebanon.
In 1903-04 the streetcar tunnel was
built and the line through Beechview to Mount Lebanon was constructed.
Regular service through the tunnel began on December 2, 1904. In 1905 a
single-track line was constructed through Brookline from Kerr's Blacksmith
Shop on West Liberty Avenue (the Brookline Junction) to the old Charleroi
and Washington line near Oak Station (near the present Overbrook School.)
Service was discontinued beyond Edgebrook Avenue, on Brookline Boulevard,
West Liberty Avenue at the junction with
Brookline Boulevard in 1915.
In 1910, West Liberty Avenue was
double-tracked, and this line was again extended beyond Edgebrook to the
new developments in East Brookline. It ran to Breining Street, where the
tracks merged a single track line that continued for two more blocks until
a loop near Witt Street. From there the trolley made the return trip back
up the Boulevard. This modern line greatly improved service to the area and
directly led to a dramatic surge in residential construction, and population
An inbound 39-Brookline passes Birchland
as it approaches Breining Street after making the loop.
For six decades, streetcar traffic in Brookline remained a reliable transportation alternative. The Pittsburgh rail
network could get a passenger anywhere in the city. It was the prefered choice
for commuters traveling to work downtown, and students at South Hills High School
were issued passes for the trip to and from the South Hills Junction.
Pittsburgh Railways route 39-Brookline
remained in operation until September 1966, when the line was discontinued in
favor of Port Authority bus service. The route was renamed 41-Brookline. Although
they lack the nostalgia of the traditional streetcars, the bus service in
Brookline, and throughout the city, is still affordable and reliable. In 2011,
the Port Authority redesignated the Brookline
bus route back to the traditional 39-Brookline.
Light rail cars pass the Station
Square stop at Carson and Smithfield Streets.
For those who still enjoy riding the rails,
the Potomac Avenue "T" station in Dormont is a convenient nearby gateway to Pittsburgh's
modern light rail system. The "T" routes follow the old Mount Lebanon/Beechview and Shannon/Library
street car right-of-ways and connect to the downtown subway, then on to the North
Two inbound 39-Brookline streetcars, heading north
on West Liberty Avenue, approach the Capital Avenue Car Stop.
Are They Called
Streetcars or Trolleys?
There is some debate over whether the
proper term for the vehicles that ran the rails on Pittsburgh streets were
called "Streetcars" or "Trolleys." The answer is ... both! The official answer
might sound a bit strange:
A TRAM (also known as a tramcar; a
streetcar or street car; and a trolley, trolleycar, or trolley car) is a rail
vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets (called street running),
and also sometimes on separate rights of way. Trams powered by electricity,
which were the most common type historically, were once called electric street
railways. Trams also included horsecar railways which were widely used in urban
areas before electrification.
For a more detailed history of trams,
visit Wikipedia (Trams).
A Ride On The Brookline Trolley In
The Early 1900s
This account was published by
Mr. Donald Hahn, an old Brookline resident. He details what it was like
taking the 39-Brookline trolley from the South Hills Junction through
to the old trolley loop. It is a wonderful look back at what Brookline
was like around 1910. It was copied from a Brookline Journal
We are now aboard a Brookline
trolley car (Toonerville) at the South end of the tunnel (South Hills
Junction), for the trip to Brookline. We swing and sway
down through the barn yard to its end, and the switch. Here the conductor
got out, threw a switch, and pulled onto the single track
cutoff that leads to Warrington Avenue. The conductor threw back his
switch, and threw the light giving right of way to the single track at the
Old Bell House tavern.
The Bell House stood just
across Saw Mill Run. An old wooden bridge spanned the run.
Here the conductor turned off the single light. Double track started here
and we turn onto West Liberty Avenue. Born's West Liberty Hotel was on one
corner and Elijah Lee's blacksmith shop was on the opposite corner. Gilfillan
and Orr Feed Company was next to the hotel, and a frame house owned by
Peter Schaffner was across the street. From there up to Cape May Avenue just
a few frame houses stood.
West Liberty Avenue near the junction
with Saw Mill Run and Warrington Avenue in 1915, looking south.
At Cape May Avenue was the old
frame school. Here was were the Mission and Brookline Boulevard United
Presbyterian Church originated. A few more scattered houses, then the
Paul Coal Company mine entrance, stable and loading bins at the corner of
Stetson Street. From here on more scattered houses with Zehfuss Hotel
near Capital Avenue, Wilhelm's country store at Ray Avenue and Butcher
Baker's meat market at the corner of Pauline. Where the Evangelical Home
stands were the Knowlson and Millitzer Farms, and at the junction the
George Kerr and Sons blacksmith shop, with the big house on the hill
Before we start up the hill let's
look back on the south-east side of West Liberty Avenue. On the corner
was the old mine entrance, the pumping station and air
The street car wound its way over
a private right of way up the hill. In later years the right of way
was widened and paved, extending the Boulevard to the Junction. Present-day Bodkin
Street was originally Hunter Avenue, then renamed Brookline Boulevard until
the paving of the right of way, at which time it became Bodkin.
We will now travel down the
Boulevard. The car tracks were in the
center, a private right
of way unpaved, and set between the tracks were wooden poles. Long cross-arms
were mounted atop these poles, to which were strung the trolley wires. I
should state that Pioneer Avenue was originally Lang Avenue, named for
William Lang. The Lang farm was located near the bottom of Pioneer Avenue,
alongside the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railroad tracks. When Brookline
was annexed into the city in 1908, the steet name duplicated another Lang
Avenue and needed to be changed. The early residents decided to call the
street Pioneer Avenue.
Brookline Boulevard in 1912, looking
northeast towards Chelton Avenue.
Doctor C.C. Lang had his home and
office on the corner where Myer's Gas Station now stands. When Mr. Myer's
put in his first station equipment the house was moved to its present
site at Pioneer and Berkshire Avenues. Next was part of an old orchard,
then W.H. William's Grocery. At the West Point trolley car stop (Wedgemere
Avenue), was Hoot's Bakery. This building housed many business establishments
Brookline's first movie house was
an open-air theatre between a store and the engine house. Crossing Castlegate
was Dooley's Grocery and Meats. Joe Dooley also had his own ice
Further along the Boulevard we pass
more vacant lots and the remnants of an old orchard, until we reach "Heine"
Melvin's Drug Store at the corner of Stebbins. From a point opposite Flatbush
Avenue, a path cut through the field, and on an angle, ending beside Ed Cook's
house on Berkshire Avenue.
From Stebbins Avenue, more open
fields to McNeilly's Grocery. This building, now owned by Melman's,
housed stores operated by Dean Rhodes and Stevens. Every one of these
Boulevard stores had a stable on the alley to the rear. The next
buildings erected were an apartment and duplex near Queensboro, where Dr.
O'Hagan, the school doctor, lived, and Sam Gigliotti's building. This
building had two store rooms with living quarters above. Sam had his
tailor shop in one store. and Nick Ermilino had a shoe repair shop in the
other. Another early building was Bob Hartman's News Agency and Simon
Zitelli's Barber Shop.
Brookline Boulevard in 1911, showing
the Freehold Real Estate office in area where the cannon sits today.
In the triangle stood the frame
building owned and occupied by the Freehold Real Estate Company. Between
the triangle and Breining Street, Oakridge Avenue and Merrick Avenue was
an old orchard.
Beyond Breining Street we ran
into, what was called in the olden days, Anderson's
Acres, farm and
woods. Below this was the Hayes farm. The original East Brookline was
laid out in part from the Hayes farm.
<Ride The 39-Brookline And
See The Sights Along The Way - 1912>
Freehold Real Estate Company
A.B.Haas, president of the Freehold
Real Estate Company located on Fourth Avenue, Pittsburgh, was instrumental
in having a plan of lots laid out in West Liberty Borough, in 1905, which he
called Brookline. The following farms were bought by the West Liberty
Development Company for this purpose: Hayes, Hughey, Hunter, Tom Knowlson,
John Knowlson, William McNeilly (Chimney Town), Philip Fisher,
Henry Daub and Fred Linn.
The next problem was that of water
supplies. In 1905 the South Pittsburgh Water Company had a large wooden
tank supported high in the air near Neeld Switch. Pipe lines were laid from
this water tank. When the South Pittsburgh Water Company changed the
location of their water plant, the old tank stood for many years after its
abandonment and became sort of a land mark to the locals. The foundation
markings remain to this day. Street improvements and sewerage were provided to
take care of the influx of new residents.
Real Estate brochure from the
When the necessary infrastructure
was in place, the West Liberty Development Company began developing the
lots for the expected rush of new residents. The Freehold Real Estate Company
erected a small office at
the intersection of Brookline Boulevard, Chelton and Queensboro Avenues, on
the small triangular island that is now refered to as Triangle Park.
From this central location, most real
estate transactions regarding Brookline properties took place.
Further development in East Brookline (Overbrook) kept the Freehold Real
Estate office busy for over two decades. The construction of
the Liberty Tunnels in
1924 led to another properous time for the company. New home sales hit record
The Great Depression
caused a major decline in the housing market, and the Freehold Real Estate
Company soon closed down their local office. However, for a quarter of a
century they oversaw the development of Brookline into the neighborhood
that we know today.
The First Churches
The first church in Brookline was
a stump church at the end of Brookline Boulevard. People gathered around the
preacher and sat on log stumps to hear his Gospel stories.
In 1868 the Knowlson Methodist Church
was constructed. This first church building stood near the present-day junction
of West Liberty Avenue and Brookline Boulevard. The property was donated by
the church united with the Banksville Methodist Church. The congregation
formed the Brookline Methodist Church, chartered in 1913. A new church was constructed along Brookline Boulevard, at Wedgemere
The old Knowlson Methodist Church,
built in 1868 above the junction of Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue,
shown here in 1915. The church was used over the years by the Brookline Methodists,
the St. Mark's Lutherans,
and the Brookline Presbyterians, all of whom later relocated to larger churches
built along Brookline Boulevard.
A small group of United
Presbyterians had a
small house of worship, erected in 1902, near the Bell House on West Liberty
Avenue. In 1907, they moved to the West Liberty Elementary schoolhouse
on Pioneer Avenue, then to the old Knowlson Church for a few years.
The Presbyterians constructed a new
church at Queensboro and
Brookline Boulevard, dedicated on February 13, 1913. The church was enlarged
in 1924, and again in 1953.
Roman Catholic Church was
organized in 1909. Construction of a church and school along Creedmoor Avenue
began in 1910. The original building was completed in 1912, then enlarged in
stages through 1928.
Masses were held in the basement of the school building from 1910 through 1939, when a separate church was built next door. Over
the years, the congregation at Resurrection grew to such proportions that four
individual spinoff parishes were formed, including St.
Pius X on
Pioneer Avenue near McNeilly Road, and Our Lady of Loreto, on Crysler Street near Moore Park.
Other spinoff congregations include St. Bernard's in Mount Lebanon
and St. Norbert's in Overbrook.
Resurrection Church in 1910, the year that
the new church and school building was completed.
Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1906 as a mission in a small
chapel on Bodkin
Street (formerly Brookline Boulevard) with a membership of only twelve people.
It's congregation flourished, and in 1928 a new
church was constructed at
the corner of Glenarm Avenue and Brookline Boulevard. The church was enlarged
in the early 1960s.
The Pittsburgh Baptist Church is located on Pioneer Avenue near McNeilly Road and is home
to Pittsburgh's Southern Baptist community. The congregation has been in existence since
1958 and have been holding services in the old Brookline church since April of
1959. The church building itself was originally known as the Grace
Lutheran Church, home the Missouri Synod congregation. The inner sanctuary
is steeped in Lutheran symbolism. The building dates back to the early
The Episcopal Church of the Advent and the
Grace Lutheran Church (now Pittsburgh Baptist)
atop the hill along Pioneer Avenue, behind the Aidyl Avenue homes, in 1935.
The Church of the
Advent Episcopal was
organized in 1904 and a small church built on Pioneer Avenue, near the
intersection with McNeilly Road. Additionally, there was the Paul Presbyterian Church, built in 1923 at Dunster Street and Pioneer on land donated by
In the 1960s, a new denomination moved
into Brookline. The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses built a house of worship
along the lower part of Brookline Boulevared, at the intersection with Witt
Street. The Jehovah's left at the start of the 21st Century. Since then the
small church has served non-denominational Christians. It was briefly called
the Agape Church, and is now home to GracePointe.
Educational Institutions Formed
The first log school house was built in
1807, located near the Lutheran Church in Baldwin Township. The oldest school in
the Brookline area, according to Professor Joseph F. Moore, was situated on Pioneer Avenue near Ray and
Holbrook Avenues. Another was located at the corner of Cape May and West Liberty
Avenue (the original West Liberty School).
A third was the East Side School, a frame
building on Edgebrook Avenue, and the fourth was a private school at the south
end of the present Liberty Tubes, built in 1820 by Mr. William Dilworth, an early
coal mining entrepreneur, for the children of the coal miners he
The old West Liberty Elementary School building,
built in 1898, is shown here in 1949
after it was converted to Elizabeth-Seton High School.
In 1898, a modern four-room schoolhouse,
called West Liberty Elementary School was erected on Pioneer Avenue near the intersection with Capital. The
building was enlarged in 1906 to eight rooms.
Soon, overcrowding forced the School
Board to build Brookline Elementary School at Pioneer and Woodbourne Avenues. This modern
four-room building was dedicated on July 4, 1909. Six additional rooms were added
in 1913 and another six in 1920. Another wing of nine rooms was built in
In addition to the public schools,
parochial school children bould attend Resurrection Elementary School, which was constructed between 1909 and 1911. The school opened for
students in the fall of 1912. Overcrowding at Resurrection led to the formation of St. Norberts parish
in Overbrook (1914) and St. Bernards parish in Mount Lebanon (1919).
The Eighth Grade graduating class from the
1913-1914 school year at Resurrection Elementary.
M. Carmalt Elementary School was
built in 1937 on Breining Street. Continual population increases led to several
expansions of Resurrection, and the formation of two other Brookline parish
schools, St. Pius X in 1955
and Our Lady Of Loreto in 1961.
Other educational institutions
included DePaul Institute, built
in 1910 for the hearing impaired, Toner Institute, a
military type training academy for orphans that was chartered in 1941,
and Pioneer School,
constructed in 1958 and operating as a special education facility to meet the
needs of the physically challenged.
The old West Liberty School was sold
in 1938 to the Catholic Diocese for use as a girl's high school,
called Elizabeth Seton High School. A newly constructed school building, the third version of West
Liberty School opened at Crysler and LaMoine Streets in 1939.
The school was expanded in 1959. West Liberty School was again closed in 1979,
then reopened in 2000, after an additional wing was built.
West Liberty Elementary School in 1959,
after an expansion of the school building.
In 1996, in response to the financial
difficulties in supporting three aging schools, and a overall drop in enrollment,
the Catholic Diocese merged the three local parochial elementary schools,
Resurrection, St. Pius and Loreto. Located in the old St. Pius school building,
the school was called Brookline Regional Catholic from 1996 to 2014. It is
now designated as Saint John Bosco Academy.
Coal for Heating in High Demand
In February, 1909, the Paul Coal
Company was established at the corner of Summerhill (Stetson Street) and
West Liberty Avenue. Residents could obtain coal on a very short notice.
Robert McKinley, J.C. Crawford and J.C. Davis chartered the company after
purchasing the large tract of coal lying beneath the Paul Place plan of lots,
and the adjoining property owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Paul.
The main mine entrance was located
near Stetson Street. The Paul Place plan of lots would include
the homes on Plainview, Woodward and Pioneer, north and south of Capital
Avenue. The Paul Farm, located across Pioneer Avenue atop the hill, eventually
became the Moore Park and Our Lady of Loreto Church grounds.
The Paul Coal Company mine located along
West Liberty Avenue and a Fairbanks scale.
A fairbanks scale was placed
within easy access of West Liberty Avenue, where the public was able to
use it for a nominal price. An electric machine of the Jefferson type was
installed for the digging of coal. Power was supplied by the Pittsburgh
Railways Company. The electric machine was the first of its kind in use
within the city limits and the easy access to coal for heating homes in
the South Hills area was a great improvement to local
A horse-drawn wagon, loaded with coal, stands
at the intersection of Freedom Avenue and Merrick Avenue in 1924.
There had been mining in West Liberty
Borough since the mid-1800s. The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad began as a Coal Railroad that operated
along the Little Saw Mill Run corridor in Banksville and the Saw Mill
Run corridor through to Castle Shannon. There were branch lines that
ran into the Brookline valleys, with maps showing them along Edgebrook
Avenue and into the Paul property, near present-day Moore Park.
In the early 1900s, the main mining
operations, like the Pittsburgh Coal Company, had exhausted their claims.
Other local companies, like the South Hills Coal Company along McNeilly Road, and the Castle
Shannon Coal Company on Library Road continued operating well into the
late 1930s. These local companies became the primary source of coal for
residential heating until their claims were exhausted.
Richard Dunn and Donald Fornear in 1943
shoveling coal along Woodbourne Avenue.
Through the mid-1940s, most Brookline
homes were heated with coal furnaces. First by horse-drawn wagon, then
by motorized transport, home coal deliveries were made weekly along the
neighborhood streets and alleys. The coal was dumped on the sidewalk
or along the back edge of the property. Residents would have to haul
the coal to the house, dropping it into a coal shute which led to the
basement. Most homes converted to natural gas furnaces in the 1940s and
1950s. There were still a few homes receiving coal deliveries as late
The Oak Mine Under Brookline
Brookline sits atop what was known
as the Oak Mine. There were actually a series of Oak Mines stretching
from Brookline along the Saw Mill Run corridor to Castle Shannon. Underneath
the heart of Brookline are the subterranean passages of Oak Mine #1. Owned
by the Pittsburgh Coal Company, the Oak Mine ran the length of Brookline,
from east to west. The coal mined was part of the Pittsburgh Coal Seam, stretching from Pittsburgh southwest into
Ohio and West Virginia. It is the largest coal bed in the Eastern
Scenes like this were commonplace
along the valleys of Brookline in the early 1900s.
Underneath Brookline, coal was mined
using the traditional room and pillar system, whereby rooms are cut into the coal
bed leaving a series of pillars, or columns of coal, to help support the mine roof
and control the flow of air. Generally, rooms are twenty to thirty feet wide
and the pillars are up to 100 feet wide.
As mining advances, a grid-like pattern
of rooms and pillars is formed. When the shaft reaches the end of a panel, retreat
mining begins. Workers mine as much coal as possible from the remaining pillars
until the roof begins to collapse. When retreat mining is completed, the area
is abandoned and sealed off.
Looking down a mine shaft similar
to those found in the Brookline area, in 1915.
In West Liberty Borough, mining operations
along Saw Mill Run Creek started in the mid-1800s. By the early-1870s, the mining
had progressed into the eastern boundaries of present-day Brookline, then refered
to as Oak Hill, Reflectorville and Fairhaven. The mine shafts began in the valleys
along Saw Mill Run and extended deep into the hills. The coal was extracted using
dynamite, picks and shovels, then transported to the mills along the Monongahela
River via the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad.
There were four separate small-guage
P&CSRR spur lines that ran along Brookline's valley floors to the main pit
openings. These were located in the valley behind Moore Park, along Edgebrook
Avenue, along Whited Street and in the ravine behind Brookline Park. Inside the
mines, mules were used to pull the coal cars along the dark passages. Near the
pit openings were large Donkey Fields where the animals were brought to
rest and graze in the sunlight.
The Pittsburgh Coal Company power
station and mine shaft at the Brookline Junction in 1909.
The eastern part of Brookline's Oak
Mine, along Saw Mill Run, was mined out by the early-1900s. By then, work had
begun tunneling under the western section of Brookline, from West Liberty Avenue
east to Merrick Avenue (see map below). The Pittsburgh Coal Company operated
a power station, mine shaft, holding tank and storage barn next to the
Brookline Junction, at the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty
During a widening
of West Liberty Avenue in 1915,
the power station and mine shaft were removed and relocated to Elwyn Street.
A large circular ventilation shaft remained at the Brookline Junction location
as the Oak Mine remained active for another thirty years.
A mine shaft along Elwyn Street/McNeilly
Road in 1931 (left) and an abandoned shaft along Edgebrook in 1937.
By the mid-1940s, the Oak Mine was
completely mined out. The numerous shafts along West Liberty Avenue, the Saw
Mill Run Corridor and the Elwyn (McNeilly Road) Street valley were boarded up.
The mining companies dismantled their buildings, sealed the mines and moved on
to the abundant coal fields further south.
Over time, most vestiges of the
once bustling local mining industry disappeared. Occasionally, an
abandoned mine shaft is uncovered during construction. More often the
reminders of Brookline's mining past come in the form of mine subsidence.
Underground collapses can cause damage to ground-level infrastructure and
homes as the earth settles into the void.
A 1910 photo of miners working in one of
Pittsburgh's many coal mines.
Abandoned mine shafts, which once
dotted the hillsides around the community, were still being found as late
as the 1980s. Landslides and shifting earth along the hills have been known
to expose these openings. As recently as October 2007, a mine shaft was
unearthed during the reconfiguration of Library Road in Overbrook, near the
intersection with McNeilly Road. We caution anyone that stumbles upon one of
these hazards to stay out!
The Brookline community has been 95%
undermined. If you own a home it's a good bet that there is a room, or
an aging pillar, underneath your land. For all Brookline property owners,
we offer three important words, Mine Subsidence Insurance. It is offered by the State of Pennsylvania
and it is affordably priced.
<Photos of the Uncovering/Sealing of the
Elwyn Mine Shaft in 2007>
This abandoned mine shaft was unearthed
along Library Road during construction in 2007.
Locations Of Brookline's Oak Mine Entrances
Click on image to enlarge
One of the earliest parts of the Oak
Mine was this PCSRR spur line and entrance along Timberland Avenue. First
shown on 1876 and mined out by 1890. By 1896 the West Side Belt
Railway had laid their tracks along
the Brookline side of Saw Mill Run, utilizing a portion of the
old spur line route.
Oak Mine entrances along Edgebrook Avenue,
shown on an 1876 map and still active in the 1900s. The tracks
ran underground to another mine shaft entrance along Whited Street.
Near present-day Hartranft Street
was a large opening in the woods known as the Donkey Field, where
the mules were brought to graze.
An Oak Mine entrance along Whited Street
with a spur line running to the PCSRR tracks, shown on a 1905 map.
This line was Brookline's main coal hub for some time, known
as Oak Station.
A PCSRR spur line running to a mine
entrance in the valley behind present-day Brookline Park, shown on a 1905 map.
The Pittsburgh Coal Company power station
and ventilation shaft that fed the Oak Mine, shown on this 1905 map.
The power plant was removed in 1915, but the ventilation shaft was moved to
a nearby location and remained
until the early 1940s. On the map, Hunter Avenue was redesignated as Brookline
Boulevard in 1908.
Later, in 1935, the road became Bodkin Street when the boulevard was
The Paul Coal Company mine shaft entrance
along Stetson Street, shown on a 1916 map. This mine was used
to provide residential heating coal for Brookline and Beechview residents
in the early 1900s.
A Pittsburgh Coal Company entrance
to the Oak Mine southeast of Creedmoor Avenue, shown on a 1916 map.
The shaft opening is across the street from the present-day car wash and
Pittsburgh Coal Company entrances to
the Oak Mine near present-day Creedmoor Avenue, shown in a 1934 map.
The South Hills Coal Company mine entrance
and Coal Tipple located near the railroad tunnel along McNeilly Road,
shown on a 1934 map. Coal extracted from this mine shaft was used for
Maps Of Brookline's Oak Mine
Click on image for a larger map
A 1905 Map (left) showing the proposed path
of the streetcar line next to the Pittsburgh Coal Company mine shaft,
and a 1929 map showing the main shafts of the Oak Mine extending eastwards
from the Brookline Junction.
A 1930s Pittsburgh Coal Company map showing
the room and pillar mines under the heart of Brookline.
A 1904 map showing the mine shaft entrance
located along Whited Street, near Marloff Place, that extended into
the eastern end of the Oak Mine. The shaft extends directly under
Brookline Park (J. Anderson property).
The South Hills Coal Company on McNeilly Road
in 1930 (left), and the Castle Shannon Coal Company along
Library Road in 1931. These companies operated Oak Mine #2 and Oak Mine #3
from 1902 to 1938.
Liberty Tunnels Benefit South Hills
constructed to furnish easy access between Pittsburgh and the
fast-growing communities in the South Hills. They were the first long
artificially ventilated tubes ever built in this country or abroad for
the accomodation of automobile traffic. They are slightly more than a
mile long and cost approximately six million dollars. The tunnels were
officially opened in 1924.
A postcard image of the Liberty
Tunnels in 1928.
The completion of the Liberty
Tunnels had a very marked effect on realty values in the South Hills
district. There was a large appreciation in the value and volume of sales
of unimproved property. A lot on Pioneer Avenue that sold for $300 in the
early 1900s was going for over $2000 in the mid-1920s. A number of high
class realty developments were made and an enormous volume of building,
principally of residential character, took place shortly after the
completion of the new tunnels.
Although the construction of the
tubes came at a time when real estate values all over the country were
increasing, there's no doubt that a large portion of the increase in value
and development in the South Hills was directly due to this great improvement.
This was especially true in Beechview and Brookline, as well as Dormont and
Mount Lebanon. These neighborhoods outran all other sections of the city in
the number of building projects in 1925.
This real estate boom in the
South Hills resulted in the improvement of Brookline as we know it
today. (NOTE: Among the farming property parceled into lots were those of:
Fleming, Goettle, Hughey, Knowlson, Paul, Stillwagon, and in East Brookline,
Anderson). Brookline Boulevard was widened
and improved in 1935.
Practically all other streets were paved.
Every year the Brookline Board of
Trade carried on a big Fourth of July celebration featuring baseball
games, races, a band concert and refreshments. In 1925, through the
kindness of Walter Fleming, the Fleming grounds were used for this
Before Brookline had a real movie
theatre, films were shown on a big screen made of several big sheets sewn
together and stretched between telephone poles directly across from the
Stebbrook Pharmacy (now Fox Pizza), then known as Alm's Pharmacy. This
was only done for the Fourth of July celebration.
Occasionally, on warm summer nights,
an improvised theatre was set up in the field taking in the area from the
laundry store to the house near Flatbush (formerly occupied by Dr.
McCombs - a dentist) and going from Brookline Boulevard to Bellaire Avenue
was vacant. The movie projector was placed somewhere in the center of the big
field, and the movie operator was Robert Byrnes Sr.
Finally, in the days before the movie
theatre was opened on Brookline Boulevard, selected movies were shown at
Resurrection church auditorium.
The first playground that
Brookline ever had was located between Berkshire and Woodbourne Avenues,
below Castlegate Avenue. Later three more playgrounds were established.
They were located between Gallion and Rossmore Avenues, Fordham and
Norwich Avenues, and at the corner of Aidly and Pioneer Avenues. The
residents were permitted to use these plots for playgrounds through the
kindness of the owners.
There was also a field between
Whited Street and Milan Avenue (laying between Gallupe and the other side
of Milan) that used to be a recreation park in the summer for the kids.
There was a big sand box, swings and slides, as well as volley ball, with
teachers in attendance to monitor the activities.
Eventually these plots of land were
sold and the kids were left without any space to play.
A model of Brookline Elementary School
in 1919 showing a proposed playground.
At Brookline School, the adjacent
ground was leased for five years and then purchased in 1923. This land was
to be used as a playground. Unfortunately, much of this property was
used in the 1929 school expansion.
Because of this, Professor Joseph F. Moore,
in order to further the recreational activities of the youth in the Brookline district,
and as chairman of the Playground Committee of the Brookline Board of Trade,
became interested in acquiring and developing a plot
along Pioneer Avenue as a playground site.
A aerial image showing Moore Park
construction in May 1939.
This dream became a reality when
the Council of the city of Pittsburgh passed an ordinance which acquired
and developed this land as a playground which is now known as the Moore
As Brookline grew and developed,
the need for further recreational facilities arose. The Brookline Community
Center Association was chartered in 1945, and their primary goal was to
acquire and develop land in East Brookline to be used as a Community
A 1939 aerial view showing the Anderson
Farm in East Brookline.
In May 1947 the 20-acre
Anderson Farm in East
Brookline was put on the market. The land was purchased by the
Community Center Association for a little under $20,000. Located between
Breining Street and Brookline Boulevard, the newly acquired land was in
a central location and perfectly suited for development into a
Work was begun immediately on
excavation of the hilly terrain, and in 1952 the Brookline
Little League began their
inaugural season on the new Community Center baseball field. The old farmhouse
was renovated and the surrounding acreage became the site of frequent carnivals and
other recreational activities.
In 1966, the land was sold to the
city for $1 with the promise
that it would be developed into a
city park. Forty years and
several million dollars later, Brookline Memorial Park is one of Pittsburgh's finest community recreation
facilities. Moore Park has also undergone some major renovations in the past
The Fourth of July Parade
One of Brookline's elder statesmen shared
their memories of the Fourth of July parade. The account was printed in an old
edition of the Brookline Journal. Most of that article is reprinted
Things sure have changed as the years
went by. Take, for instance, the Fourth of July celebration. In the good
old days things sure did hum on this patriotic day.
In the morning, about 8:30, the kids
would head for Berkshire Avenue and Castlegate. There they would line up for
the big parade. They each received a crepe paper hat and a nice American flag
on a stick.
In those days there was no canned music.
There was a uniformed band, and they played off and on all day.
Parade-goers gather near Glenarm Avenue
on July 4, 1920.
The first place they held the celebration
was in the big area that lay between Rossmore and Gallion Avenues and Wedgemere
Avenue. There was a nice ballfield there, too. The community would gather and
watch the ballgames, especially on the Fourth of July. Some of the player's names
who played for the Brookline team were Joe
Powers, Ick Dooley, and Jimmy
Over the years, the Fourth of July
celebration was held at several different places. It was first held at the area
between Rossmore, Gallion and Wedgemere; then it was held up on Fordham Avenue,
between Queensboro and Stebbins Avenue. This location was used only once. It was
a failure through no fault of its own. The year it was held there, the Fourth of
July was so cold people didn't turn out. They didn't care much for ice cream
cones either. Hot dogs would have been more welcome.
Flags were waving at the Independance Day
Parade, July 4, 1929.
Next, the celebration was held in the
ballfield next to Brookline Elementary School. The band sat under the big tree
next to the school building, and played all day long. The only problem there was
not enough seats for the people who watched the ballgames.
One nice thing they did when it was held
at Brookline School; there were Brentwood Motor Coach buses that rode along the
Boulevard all day long and picked up people who wanted to come to the celebration.
There were no parking problems. Everybody rode the buses. The kids would ride up
and down the Boulevard just for the fun of it.
The Independence Day Parade on Brookline
Boulevard - July 4, 1954.
Fred Proie remembers the good times at
Brookline School during the 1930s:
At that time, Mr. Moore was the President
of the Brookline Bank, located near the Brookline Movie Theatre. Moore Park and
pool were named after him and what a grand old gentleman he was. Mr. Moore was
responsible, as we were growing up, for the Fourth of July celebrations. All of
the residents in Brookline were given tickets, free of charge. With these tickets,
families could purchase treats and games at Brookline School field, where movies
were shown on a large outdoor screen in the evening, after fireworks.
Finally, when Moore Park opened in 1939,
the festivities moved there. Baseball games were played every year. The park was bustling
with activities and the evening fireworks drew big crowds. These celebrations
were discontinued in the late-1960s. Today, there is no longer
an Independence Day parade in Brookline.
In lieu of the Fourth of July Parade,
the Brookline Community still boasts a Memorial Day
Parade, the Little
League Parade and
the Halloween Parade.
The Community Picnic
Dating back to the early 1900s, the Brookline
Business Men's Association, and later the Chamber of Commerce, has sponsored the
annual School and Community Picnic. Complimentary tickets were passed out at the
local schools and more were generally purchased at the amusement park. It was a
grand day to get out, have some fun on the rides, and mingle with friends and
neighbors from the community.
An aging veteran of many picnic days
"The community picnic has remained a feature
in Brookline to this day, but it has lost a little of the luster of the old days,
when picnic day was generally the only day of the year that families would make
the trip to the amusement park.
"In the old days, most people didn't have
their own cars, or if they did the husbands used them to go to work. Families
would meet on picnic day at one of the designated stops and board the streetcars
for the long trip to the park.
"One of the big stops was Creedmore. There
would be hundreds of folks gathered there, all dressed up in summer clothes and
carrying big baskets of picnic lunches.
"The first picnic Brookline ever had was at
Kennywood Park. The only trouble with that was that it was so late for the kids
getting home on the specials. By the evening, almost all the kids were tired
but no one was crying, because a young fellow named Joe Butch got up in the front
of the street car and sang song after song. After that first attempt, the picnics
were all held at West View Park."
West View Park was the site of the annual
community picnic until 1979, when the festivities moved to Kennywood Park.
The picnics continued at West View Park
until that park closed in 1977. Many Brookliners
will remember the Big Dipper or the Racing Whippet. There was the Alpine Sky Ride
that ran the length of the park, and it was a good way to relax and get a good look
around. Kiddieland was a big hit with the little ones, and older folks loved the big
band sounds in Danceland. There was also a bar at the entrance to the park, and often
times that parents would get tired and end up at the bar while the kids ran on
adrenaline from one ride to another.
After West View Park closed, the picnic
moved back to Kennywood Park and has remained there ever since. There
are no more free tickets, but reasonably priced discount tickets are available
at most Boulevard stores prior to picnic day. The picnic is held yearly in
Kennywood Park is well-known for it's exciting
thrill rides, and fries from the Potato Patch are a must.
It's hard to beat Kennywood for roller coaster
excitement. There's the Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit, Racer and Phantom's
Revenge. The Exterminator will move the weak stomach and the Lil' Phantom is great
for the kids. Kennywood is steeped in tradition and the Old Kennywood section
features some historic favorites, like The Whip and the Pittsburg Plunge. Many will
remember old favorites like the Laser Loop, the Steel Phantom and the Little
The Big Woods
When speaking of recreational opportunities,
one must take into consideration the ability of children to improvise and adapt to
their immediate surroundings. Using their imagination and ingenuity, the kids that
lived in the various areas of Brookline often created their own forms of recreation,
playing street games like hopscotch, release and tag. With expansive wooded areas in
abundance along Brookline's rolling hills and valleys, exploring the brush was an
experience that created another exciting list of things to do.
One such area was the large wooded patch
of land that stood between LaMarido Street, Berwin Avenue and Edgebrook Avenue.
Throughout the 1800s these woods were dotted with mines, and there were many
reminders of that distant past scattered about. The dawn of the 20th century
brought residential housing development, which created a border around the
wooded greenspace. Henceforth, the land became known to the children that lived
in homes along the nearby streets as the Big Woods.
The following recollections of the Big
Woods are from a group of kids collectively known as the Shortcut BBB gang.
They all lived on Berwin, Beaufort or Birtley Avenues in the late-1930s and
early-1940s, and were entering their adolescent years. Some of the Shortcut
members were the Selvig, Sayenga, Rosfeld and Addis children. The group name
was derived from their favorite stomping grounds, and prefered short cut, the
cement pathway from Birtley to Gallion Avenues.
The Big Woods were a mystery that most
youngsters that age felt compelled to explore. Once familiar with the various
pathways and destinations the woods became their unique playground, a gathering
place full of fun, adventure and sometimes peril. The well-trodden pathways were
also convenient short cuts heading in all directions.
There were several ways into the woods.
One was the dirt alley behind Lamarido Street, down Metz Way from the Little
Store, which was the easiest way in. Another was down Metz Way a bit further,
closer to Wolford, which was often a prefered entrance as it was secluded and
out of the view of neighbors. There was another gateway along Eathan Street
and a main path that began at the intersection of Gallion and Wolford, which
crossed Berwin at the bottom of the hill. Others were located at the
bottom of Starkamp and along Edgebrook Avenue.
Which path was chosen often depended
upon which "tribe" of kids one belonged to. There were the tough guys from
LaMarido that hung around near their back alley entrance, and another group
of heady teenagers that gathered near Eathan Street. The Shortcut BBB gang
prefered the entrance near Wolford, which was the safest way in and out, being
closest to their homes. Within the woods for some distance from the main
entrances were vague tribal boundaries, with each group claiming their own
Once inside the woods, all paths led
to a central location, a large open space called the Donkey Field. The clearing
was named as such because, back in the mining days, this is where the donkeys
that worked underground were brought to graze in the sunshine and
To one side of the Donkey Field were two
large oak trees. One of the trees had a platform built about thirty feet off the
ground. Railroad spikes were driven into the trunk for climbing up. A test of
boyhood was to become big enough and strong enough to climb the spikes up to
the platform. The oak trees were a also a great place to climb away from tribal
danger. The platform was a fine place to watch for anyone following you.
A tenuous truce existed between the
tribes with regards to the Donkey Field. It was shared by everyone and often
used for playing ball. Members of the BBB gang, and even the tough guys from
LaMarido, rarely ventured beyond the Donkey Field, as that would constitute a
violation of sorts and possibly provoke an encounter with the Eathan-Wolford
gang. The paths leading towards Edgebrook, however, were generally safe for
exploration, but not recommended for the younger kids.
Off to the side of the paths leading
to the Donkey Field were plenty of blackberry vines and other kinds of
underbrush, mostly elderberry and dense ragweed thickets. In the springtime
the woods were covered with May Apple plants that grew about a foot high.
This dense undergrowth made a great place to play and also a fine place
to hide when being pursued.
Sometimes if one strayed too far they
risked getting captured. This meant spending some uncomfortable time being
heckled, and possibly being hauled off to the tribal base as a prize.
The entire experience, at least for the Little Kids, wasn't all that bad.
The wasted time and embarassment were hard on one's ego. Oftentimes, these
relatively harmless instances with the Little Kids led to altercations
between the protective Bigger Kids.
An aerial view of the Big Woods from
May of 1939. The Donkey Field is clearly visible in the center.
Along the path leading to Edgebrook
Avenue were thick vines rising into the trees that were called Monkey Vines.
These vines would be cut off about four feet from the ground, then used to
swing perilously out over the steep hillside. The vines were quite sturdy
and aptly suited for this Tarzan-like activity.
There were two main clear water streams
that ran along the outer edges of the woods, and two ponds where the creeks had
been dammed. One pond was near the end of Wolford and the other was along
Edgebrook Avenue, called the Duck Pond. These were nice places to get wet but
not deep enough for swimming. Searching for crawdads and playing in the streams
was a fun way to pass the day.
Other interesting features inside the Big
Woods included a one-room cabin by the creek near the end of Birtley Avenue,
and the Crater, a depression eight feet deep and nearly fifty feet square on
top of a small hill. No one knew what caused the crater. It was assumed that
it was a mine shaft that was covered over or maybe the fondation of an old
There was also Junk Hill, a steep hillside
along Edgebrook Avenue where all sorts of garbage was dumped. Further down
Edgebrook was the old coal mine entrance. A stream of yellow sulfur water
constantly ran from the entrance, and kids would often venture inside on a
dare. The old mine was spooky, but not as feared as the phantom that haunted
the woods at night. The ghostly apparition was called the Blue Hood. If it was
encountered, one was advised to run like crazy to the nearest exit.
Then there was Snake Hill, a large
heap of stones that was home to many varieties of garter snakes and other
critters. Finally, there was the Watermelon Farm located up the hill from
Edgebrook. Snatching a watermelon on a dare was only for the brave at heart
as the farmer often guarded his prize melons with a shotgun full of rock
Most of the time, the Big Woods were just
a perfect place to play games like Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, Rogers
Rangers, Northwest Passage or Last of the Mohicans. With unlimited potential for
an imaginative youngster, the woods often became a personal adventureland that
provided the backdrop for a myriad of lasting childhood memories.
In the 1950s, residential development
moved into the heart of the woods. A large section of the Big Woods is now
occupied by homes along extensions of Beaufort Avenue and LaMarido Street.
New streets include Perrilyn, Elmbank and Hartranft. Sections of the woods,
along Edgebrook Avenue, remain as they were long ago.
Brookline Institutions Chartered
* The Brookline Board of Trade, forerunner
to the Brookline Business Men's Association, was organized in 1907. The board
promoted the annual Independence Day (July 4th) celebration and were active
in the initial development of the Brookline community.
* Business and financial interests were served by the Brookline Savings and Trust
Company, founded in 1926, and the Brookline Building and Loan Association. The
Savings and Trust was sold in the late-1960s. Since then it has been a branch
bank of Western Pennsylvania National Bank, Integra Bank, National City Bank and,
beginning in 2008, Pittsburgh National Bank.
* The Joint Civic Committee was chartered in 1930. This group was responsible for
the many infrastructure changes and modernization projects that occured in the
* Outstanding among the local civic and patriotic organizations is Brookline
American Leagion Post #540, which was chartered in 1938.
* The Kiwanis Club, the Lions Club and Women's Civic Club, all three of which are
no longer present in Brookline, were very active for many decades in community
* The Brookline Business Men's Association was chartered in 1944. This group
promotes neighborhood activities, including the annual school and community
picnic, the Halloween celebration and other yearly events. The B.B.M.A. became
the present-day Brookline Chamber of Commerce.
* The Brookline Memorial Community Center Association was chartered in 1945. The
group was responsible for purchasing the Anderson Farm for use as Brookline
Park in 1947. They handled the maintenance and upkeep of the park until 1966.
They were the forerunner to the Brookline Area Community Council.
* The Brookline Little League Association was organized in 1951.
* The Brookline Area Community Council was chartered in 1966. The Community Council has
been active in civic affairs since their inception. The Council became involved
in all areas of community development. Among their many achievments were the
ongoing development of Brookline Memorial Park, the Parkview Terrace Apartments
and the Mazza Pavilion. From 1982 to 1986, the B.A.C.C. hosted a
yearly Junefest Celebration in Brookline Park. The Community Council continues to be an active voice
in community affairs.
* The Brookline Knights Football Association was organized in 1974.
* The Brookline Breeze 5K Fitness Run/Walk began in 1982.
* The Brookline Youth Soccer Association was organized in 1982.
* The South Pittsburgh Development Corporation (SPDC) was founded in the early 1990s. The group was
initially active in the preservation of greenway space and neighborhood development.
In 2001, S.P.D.C. merged with another community action group called the Neighborhood
Planning Initiative, which was involved in the effort to modernize Brookline
Boulevard. Together, they formed an organization that works with city and government
officials to coordinate the planning and implementation of various community
* The Brookline DEK Hockey Association was organized in 2005. It's roots go back to 1990
and the Overbrook Hockey League.
Members of the Brookline Area Community Council
in 1982 looking over
an informational pamphlet on the Community of Brookline.
The Brookline Journal
The Brookline Shopper was Brookline's
neighborhood newspaper from 1933 to 1946. In 1947, the paper changed it's name
to The Brookline Journal. The publication was printed weekly until 1982, when
financial necessity forced it's closure. For twenty-six years, from 1956
through the closing in 1982, the newspaper's editor was C. Dale Noah, whose
catchy caption "Do You Noah?" became a memorable community catchphrase. The
newspaper was a much anticipated Thursday delivery that captured the true essence
The Brookline Journal was originally
owned by Jack Kennelty, Lloyd Green and Sam Selickson. From 1947 to 1949
The Brookline Journal was printed at Franklin Press on McNeilly Road. From
1950 onwards the paper was printed at Emerson Press in East Liberty. Ernie
Galko was the Linotype Operator, Hank Hunziker was the Pressman and Dick Dobbs
was the Floorman.
Eventually, C. Dale Noah purchased the
newspaper and set up office in the basement of Smith Realty, with a small
entranceway between Smith Realty and the Brookline Savings and Loan, now
PNC Bank. He later relocated the Brookline Journal office to the Reed
Building, across from Creedmoor Avenue. The building has since been
demolished and has been replaced by a parking lot for DeBor Funeral
Chip Gorski remembers Mr. Noah's
dedication to the Journal and the kindness he was shown as a child
interested in journalism and broadcasting:
I lived up in Brookline from 1968 until
1986. My parents, brother and sister still live in Brookline, so I am there
quite a bit. Mr. Noah gave me my start in journalism. I remember being about
age twelve and walking into the Brookline Journal Office. I asked Mr. Noah
if I could have a job as a reporter. Mr. Noah thought for a moment, then
asked me to write a weekly column called "Little Notes, by Little
Today, some of these articles
evoke laughter, but people actually read them. I continued my column for
a couple years. Mr. Noah fueled my interest in journalism, and that simple
background helped get me into places like WTAE-TV, where as a teenager I
worked as an entry level desk assistant. Eventually, I got on the air at
WESA AM/FM (Charleroi) and then onto Newsradio 1410 KQV (Pittsburgh) as a
reporter/anchor. All of this because of the kindness of Mr. Noah.
After publication of The Brookline
Journal ceased in 1982, a South Hills newspaper located in Baldwin called
"The Journal" covered local news and events for the thoughout the remainder
of the 1980s. Then, for two years from 1993 to 1995, Brookliner Bob Frank
published "The Brookline News." For the next thirteen years, the community
did without a print publication.
Then, in 2008, the South Pittsburgh
Development Corporation and editor Pam Grabowski began publication of "The Brookline. With readership growing, the new Brookline paper looks like
a success. In time, maybe it will have the same impact as the C. Dale Noah's
Modern Stores in the 1930s
Back in the 1930s, the health of the
community was protected by six physicians and six dentists. There was a
chiropractor, a chiropodist, an optometrist, and two funeral directors. Along
the boulevard were modern stores, restaurants and bars, barber shops, etc.
There were also two movie theatres, one located at 732-734 and
another at 808 Brookline Boulevard.
Transportation was mainly by bus or
trolley. Automobiles were available, but the majority of the population could
not afford the luxury. The Brookline Branch of the Carnegie
Library was opened in 1930.
It was originally located in the basement of the United Methodist Church. In
1942, the library moved to 730 Brookline Boulevard. It remained there for
nearly fifty years until 1991, when the library was moved to it's present
location at 708 Brookline Boulevard.
The first Post Office was established at an
early date in the Mt. Lebanon section near the present Bower Hill Road on the upper
Washington Road (West Liberty Avenue). A Brookline Post Office substation was
established in 1935 at 740 Brookline Boulevard. Finally, in 1958, a
dedicated Brookline Branch Office was built at 612 Brookline Boulevard.
Dedication of the United State Post Office -
Brookline Branch in 1958.
Up until the mid-1970s, Brookline Boulevard
maintained the same kind of makeup as far as the types of stores in operation. There
were several hardware stores (Fred's, Nolan's, Bryant's, Sam's and
Jay's), the Town and Country women's store, the Boulevard Men's Shop, Tryson's
Shoe Store, The Sound Shed record store, three separate pharmacies (Charleson's,
Brookline Pharmacy and Stebbrooks), several individual doctor's offices, and
numerous other service oriented establishments.
The 1970s saw the rise of the suburban malls,
and the 1980s saw the rise of the superstore. These larger stores swamped the small
business owner, and caused quite a shift in consumer tastes. Many of the local
community shops went out of business as the public flocked to the new and larger
mega-stores and the comfort of the modern shopping malls.
Today, Brookline Boulevard is still a vibrant
commercial district, but the makeup of the stores that populate the boulevard has
seen many changes. Rather than hardware stores, there are pizza stores. Rather than
upscale clothing stores there are dollar stores.
Despite these changes, Brookline Boulevard is
still populated by businesses that offer a fine selection of goods and services. It
is still possible to find a great deal at shops like A-Boss Opticians and
Decio's formal wear. There are two banks, several barber shops, hair dressers,
bars and coffee shops. You can stop for ice cream at Scoops on the Boulevard or
dine on fine cuisine at the Moonlite Cafe. Specialty markets like Pitaland and
Los Palmas offer a variety of goods, and for fresh baked treats, there is the
Party Cake Shop and Kribel's Bakery.
Rationing During World War II
Immediately following America's entry
into World War II, a rationing system was begun to guarantee minimum amounts
of necessities to everyone and prevent inflation. Tires were the first item
to be rationed, in January 1942, because supplies of natural rubber were
interrupted. Gasoline rationing proved an even better way to allocate scarce
On October 28, 1942, the government
instituted a national speed limit of 35 mph. This was an effort to both
lessen fuel consumption and increase safety. Most Americans were allotted
a mere three gallons of gas per week and, due to rubber shortages, most
vehicles were driving on old, worn tires.
By 1943, consumers needed government issued
ration coupons to purchase typewriters, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, footwear,
fuel oil, silk, nylon, coffee, stoves, shoes, meat, cheese, butter, margarine,
canned foods, dried fruits, jam, and many other items. Some items, like new
automobiles and appliances, were no longer in production as U.S. factories
turned completely to wartime production. The rationing system did not apply
to second-hand goods, like clothing and used cars.
To get a classification and a book of
rationing stamps, one had to appear before a local rationing board. Each person
in a household received a ration book, including babies and children. When
purchasing gasoline, a driver had to present a gas card along with a ration book
and cash. Ration stamps were valid only for a set period to prevent
Families kept a close eye in their
ration booklets as they could not be replaced. When in need of a new pair
of shoes or a dress, parents would carefully collect the requisite number
of red or blue tokens and then redeem them, along with cash, for the
Here in Brookline, families tightened
their purse-strings and did their best to make do with less. The public
transportation network became a prefered method of travel, and car-pooling
became commonplace. Most homes grew Victory Gardens to help offset the
shortage of foodstuffs. Parents learned how to mend worn clothing and
repair broken appliances.
One thing that sticks out in most
people's mind from the war years is a white vegetable substance, called
Oleo Margarine, that became a common butter substitute. Many said that
it did not taste like butter at all, and had the look and consistency of
lard. In an effort to make the margarine look more palatable, there was a
capsule of yellow dye inside each package. The capsule was broken and the
dye kneaded into the oleo, making it look more like butter. The effort
provided some relief, but most kids still considered it quite gross.
War Bonds and Defense Stamps
Another thing that was commonplace
during the years 1942-1946 was War Bond Drives. In order to finance the
war effort, the United States government sold savings bonds. Because of
rationing, families often had more money than they could spend, so they
saved it, mostly by investing in these government bonds. Rallies were held in
most cities. Hollywood film stars and war heroes helped draw the crowds
needed to make the program a success. The bond buyer paid 75% of
the face value of a war bond, and received the full face value when
redeemed after a set number of years.
There were seven major War Loan
drives, including the Great Lakes War Bond Drive in 1945. Pittsburgh was
one of the stops along the way for LST-512, a D-Day landing craft that toured
the Great Lakes waterways. The vessel, loaded with war exhibits, was moored
along the Monongahela Wharf on October 17, 1945.
Scrap metal drives and the sale of Defense Stamps were another option for the
government to raise capital with the help of the general public. Stamp
drives were a great way to get the nation's school children involved in
the homefront war effort. All public, private and parochial schools
participated in the Defense Stamp drives. Locally, among Pittsburgh Public
Schools, Brookline Elementary was the top seller of defense stamps in 1942.
A defense stamp drive at Brookline Elementary School
in May, 1942.
While the Little Kids spent their
time selling defense stamps, collecting scrap metal, drawing patriotic
posters in school and learning how to distinguish between American, German and
Japanese fighter planes and bombers, the Bigger Kids joined the military and
were sent overseas to fight the war.
Service Flags and Service Banners
Blue stars and gold stars began to
appear in many of the neighborhood windows. By 1945, it seemed as though
there were one or more stars displayed on every home in Brookline. Service flags,
or service banners, were an official banner that families of service members
could display in their front window. The flag or banner was adorned with a
blue star for each family member serving in one of the branches of the
United States Armed Forces. A gold star represented a family member that
fell in the line of duty.
Two such Brookline households that
hung Service Banners containing both blue and gold stars were the Reitmeyer
and Cullison families. At 530 Bellaire Place there was a banner with one
gold star and three blue stars for the sons of August and Rose Reitmeyer.
Their oldest son, Shipfitter 2nd Class John Reitmeyer, perished in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
Two other sons, Leo and Ralph, also served in the Navy, while a fourth
son, Vince, served as a cook in the Army. Leo Reitmeyer
saw action during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Another banner hung at home of Bill
and Mary Cullison at 2336 Birtley Avenue, containing one gold star and two
blue stars, similar to the one shown above. The Cullison's oldest son, Bill Jr.,
was in the Navy, and their youngest son, Richard, joined the Army Air Corps.
Their middle son, Lieutenant Thomas James Cullison, was an officer in General Patton's Third
Army. Tommy lost his life on September 10, 1944, fighting in the Battle
for the Dornot Bridgehead, a fierce engagement during the Army's Lorraine
Campaign in France.
Altogether, the Brookline community
lost forty sons during World War II. A list of these fallen heroes can be
seen on the Brookline Connection War Memorial page.
Vintage Americana - Growing Up In The 1940s
The following reminiscences come
from the notes of Don Sayenga and his younger sister Carol, who lived at
1014 Berwin Avenue in the 1940s. This was a time when modern appliances
like the refrigerator brought delicacies such as cold drinks and ice cubes
into the common household. Their memories detail a simple lifestyle that
fits quite well into Norman Rockwell's vintage vision of
Don Sayenga recalls:
We did not have a refrigerator when I
was small. We had something known as an icebox. Inside the house were two
of them, one upstairs and one downstairs. They did not have much room inside
because most of the space was occupied by a huge fifty pound block of ice.
The ice was delivered to our house by the iceman who came each week.
The ice melted away during the week,
with the water collecting in a tray which had to be emptied every day. We kids
weren’t allowed to handle the tray because it was rather cumbersome and the
adults didn’t want to risk a puddle on the wooden kitchen floor. There
was a sign we put in the front window if we needed fresh ice, and how
much we wanted.
A vintage ice box from the 1930s (left),
and an early General Electric refrigerator from the same time period.
Because there wasn’t much room in the
icebox, the only drinks I recall being put in there were milk, buttermilk
and beer, all of which were in glass bottles. The milk we drank was delivered
each day to our doorstep, including buttermilk and butter, by the milkman.
The milk was not homogenized, so cream would float to the top and we had
to shake the bottle before pouring.
We were encouraged to drink as much milk
as possible, and we drank it by the glassful during the daytime, always with
the understanding that enough had to be saved for breakfast the next morning.
As far as fruit juice is concerned, most people bought oranges at the grocery,
sliced them in half, then crushed the juice out using a special dish with a
ribbed cone in the center. It was drank immediately. Bread was another item
that was delivered to our doorstep.
There were no powder drinks in our
home except for Ovaltine. We mixed it with milk and drank it at bedtime.
We did not have soda pop in the icebox. When we came into the house thirsty
we drank water by the glassfull, or oftentimes by leaning over and drinking
directly from the tap. This drinking from the tap inside the house was
frowned upon because the suspected purity of the water. In the summertime,
however, there was always a rubber hose hooked up to an outside faucet,
and the kids drank from the hose without going into the house. We did this
without hesitation at any house where we were playing.
When we got a refrigerator my mother
started a new policy about pop. She was negative about drinks containing
caffeine (such as Coke, Pepsi, and Royal Crown) but she did favor a specific
kind of ginger ale known as Vernor’s. It had a different taste, unlike
regular ginger ale like Canada Dry. She would keep a six-pack of Vernor’s in
the house and there was always bottle or two cooling in the refrigerator.
We were allowed to drink from only one bottle at a time, and if it wasn't
empty we put a stopper in it.
There wasn’t much in the way of drinks
sold at grocery stores. After we got a refrigerator we had ice cubes for the
first time. Our mother made iced-tea half-and-half with orange juice and
that’s what we drank with supper. My father drank a glass of buttermilk
every night before he went to bed.
Carol Sayenga added:
I remember our grandmother having an
icebox. It was in a walk-in cupboard room upstairs. My dad had installed a
drainage pipe that ran through the wall to allow the melting ice water to
drain into the basement sewer pipe. I also remember with joy the days that the
ice man would bring his truck to the house. He would carry the big block of
ice into the house with his tongs. We kids always were out in the street
playing and we would get slivers of ice from the back of the truck to suck
Deliveries from the milkman, the
mailman and the department store trucks were common place. We were also
visited by the umbrella repair man and the knife sharpening mans. I can
also remember that men sometimes came to our door and my mom would give
them some food. She said that these men were hungry and that they knew
which homes would help them.
There was a victory garden down at
Moore Park by the swimming pool. It was a plot of city ground that my father
and grandfather cultivated to grow additional food. Many people had victory
gardens during the war. There were two large gardens in our backyard. The one
closer to the house was my grandfathers and the one by the alley was my dad's.
We also had a big grape arbor. My friends and I often sat in it and ate the
Our refrigerator could only hold two
trays of ice cubes so it was a rule to refill when one was emptied. Milk
only came in glass quarts then and we had seven quarts delivered every other
day. There was an insulated box on the front porch for the milk to be kept
It was 1960 before there was an
automatic washer/dryer in the house. Mom had a wringer washer and a copper
tub that sat on an old black stove in the basement. Water was heated there
and clothes were rubbed in the tub. Tongs were used to dip the clothes into
the hot water. There was no hot water in the basement bathroom, so mom kept
a bucket of water on the stove. Clothing, curtains and towels were always
hanging in the basement to dry. In the summer, the side yard would be
filled with clothes on the clothes line.
We walked to school, walked home
and back at lunch. We walked to the movie theater on the Boulevard. There
was a special, exciting way to walk home through vacant lots, down alleys
and through cement short cuts. There was never any fear. It was as though
we either knew who lived in many of the houses or we simply knew that,
if we needed help, almost any house would have a mother to help us.
Kids gathered on our street because
it was level in front of our house. In the day, we played softball or
football, later basketball with a basket hoop. In the evenings we played
release mostly, using about a four block area for hiding. We went home
when the streetlights went on. There would always be ten to fifteen kids
available. Everyone was included although we surely knew who could run
and hide successfully. It was such a status symbol for a Little Kid like
myself to be chosen early by one of the team captains, who were usually
A Typical Andy Hardy
Place To Live
The following remembrances were sent
to us by a gentleman named Fred Proie. It's another great look back at what
it was like for a child growing up in Brookline in the 1930s and
We moved to Brookline in 1934.
Our family lived on Templeton Street and my best girlfriend lived on Winterhill
Street. We walked the "Boulie", as we called it, almost every day, knowing
every store there. We shopped at Bisi's, the second little
store on the Boulevard, near Pioneer Avenue, and walked past Rudt's Tavern,
where the men standing outside talking would laugh at our little antics.
Gorski's was the place to go and eat a meal with your parents on a special
occasion. Kuntz's Bakery was the favorite place to shop for breakfast sweets
after church on Sunday mornings. Mr. Kuntz was the sweetest man. He was always
kind to children, asking in his German accent "vould you like to have a
Bisi's Market on Brookline Boulevard,
near Pioneer Avenue, in 1936.
Money was tight for everyone then and
when we went into World War II, so many of our friends and loved ones were lost.
My sister was engaged to Alfie Reeves, who lived in the little home next to the
Brookline Theater, with his brother, Fred Reeves, who later became the President
of the Brookline Bank. Alfie joined the Army and his brother joined the Navy.
After D-Day, my sister got word from his Mother that Alfie had been killed by a
sniper in Normandy, France. He's buried in Normandy. What a tragedy so many
suffered, losing our brothers, fathers, relatives and friends, but how eager
the young men were to go and serve their country. Patriotism was so high among
all the people then.
On hot summer days, sitting now in my
air-conditioned home, I remember taking long walks with my girlfriend to the
Brookline News Stand, where the sign outside said the store was "air-conditioned".
We'd walk in there just to get cool. Sundays was always the day to go to the
afternoon movies. We'd save our ten cents just for that occasion. We would buy
a five cent candybar at the corner drugstore first, so that we could enjoy
it during the movie.
The Boulevard Theatre, open from 1937 to 1952, was a popular place for Sunday
I remember when a tax of one cent was put
on the ten cent fee. I'd spent my five cents on the candy bar, and had only ten
cents left. When I got in line, someone told me I needed eleven cents, so I ran
all the way back home to Templeton Street and got the extra penny.
Young people didn't have video games to
play, or television to watch. We amused ourselves during the summer by getting
up teams to play ball, or going on hikes to the woods on Plainview Avenue with
packed lunches. Many days were spent walking to Moore Pool. After swimming all
afternoon, we'd head home, anxious and hungry for a home cooked meal.After dinner
in the evenings, the neighborhood children would gather in the streets and we
would play hide and seek while our parents sat and talked on the front porch.
When the street lights came on, we all went home.
I always speak of Brookline, lovingly,
as the typical Andy Hardy type place to live.
Cold War Fears - Duck And Cover
During World War II, in addition to
rationing, Defense Stamps, Bond Drives and Victory Gardens, there were some
other subtle changes that became a part of the daily lives of Brookliners.
These included blackouts and Air Raid Drills.
Although enemy bombers and missiles
never encroached upon the skies above Pittsburgh, the city conducted several
blackout drills during the war years. One reminder of this war time effort
is the paint that still covers the windows on the front of the Brookline
A blackout rolls down Fifth Avenue during
a drill on April 18, 1941 in downtown Pittsburgh.
Air raid drills were also conducted
on a regular basis in the local schools. Students and teachers practiced
moving in an orderly fashion to designated safe zones or, if there was no
warning, to "Duck and Cover." During a Duck and Cover drill, students were
instructed to position themselves under their school desk and assume a
After the threats of World War II
had come to an end, the United States was thrust into the Cold War with
the Soviet Bloc countries. The nuclear age was upon us and the possibility
of an attack with the atomic bomb became a clear and present danger.
In 1951, the Civil Defense Agency
published a series of pamphlets and videos featuring "Bert the Turtle" to
educate the public on how to find a safe place and then "Duck and
<Watch The Civil Defense Video
"Duck And Cover">
The air raid drills once practiced
in the 1940s at local schools again became a regular occurance. Because of
the devastating nature of an atomic explosion, designated safe zones were
once again marked, but this time with a new and foreboding label, "Fallout
These shelters were often located
in the basement of large buildings, and stocked with Civil Defense supplies
designed to last for a few weeks. Whether the majority of these shelters
would provide protection from radiation exposure is doubtful, but they
did contain stocks of food, medical supplies and some basic
Students were taught what to do in
case of an imminent attack or, under the worst case, a sudden exposion.
If advance warning was given, students followed their teachers
to safe areas or hallways and were instructed to lie down against a
wall and cover up.
Some students who lived within a
certain distance from the school had to go home quickly to their parents.
These children were timed and held responsible for being tardy. These
drills were taken very seriously.
Of course, if the attack was sudden
and unexpected, the students were instructed to crawl under their desks,
or "Duck and Cover." These Civil Defense exercises were conducted well into
the 1960s, a time of bitter Cold War tensions.
Oftentimes the younger children
looked upon the drill as an exciting break from the regular school routine.
Those who got to scurry home had the opportunity to leave school for a
brisk walk, and those who stayed had a chance to get out of the classroom
for a while.
For some kids, however, the spectre
of a sudden atomic blast could be quite overwhelming, and the practices
caused fear and apprehension.
Here in Brookline, former students
from that era remember what it was like when the warning sirens went off
and the children sprung into action:
"I remember going home during
what I was told were air raid drills in the late 50's early 60's. I lived
on Norwich and made it there in fifteen minutes. I did stay one time and
they made us sit in the cafeteria, which was under the church at
Ressi." - Sarah B.
"It was during the Cold War. We had
to try to get under our desks. The Sister told us to pray so we would go to
heaven. Duck and cover was post-WWII during the atom bomb fear. It's when
the bomb shelters were built. Sister Esmerelda was principal."
- Fred P.
"If you lived close to the school
you had to rush home. Your mother had to time you and report back to the
school how long it took you to get there!" - Kathy F.
"You were supposed to hunker down
against a curb if you were caught outside when the atomic bomb went off.
Imagine that." - Linda D.
"If you could walk home in fifteen
minutes (you weren't allowed to run, but I definitely walked fast), you didn't
have to take shelter under your desk." - Ann C.
"I could make it home in fifteen
minutes. I lived on Whited Street. Those who stayed had to do duck and cover.
This was in the mid 1950's." - Bill M.
"We lived outside the perimeter for
going home, but my mother insisted that we be together if there was an attack,
so we ran like the devil to get home." - Nancy S.
"I remember at Brookline Elementary, in
1970 and 1971, we went in the halls to crouch in front of the lockers. It didn't
make sense to me then. Like the lockers were really gonna save us."
- Ellie S.
"I went to Brookline Elementary during
the 1960s and I remember Duck and Cover. We would crouch down along a wall
in the hallway, and were told to hold a book over our heads. I remember
thinking that the book would probably not protect me from a bomb!"
- Susie A.
"I went to West Liberty and do remember
the Duck and Cover drills. I also remember the Civil Defense supplies in the
school basement." - Henry C.
"I remember going to West Liberty
School and in the 1970s being taken down to the basement, which doubled as a
bomb shelter, and remember the fallout shelter signs in the stair wells going
down there." - Scott P.
"I remember hiding in the dark
hallways at Carmalt Elementary in kindergarten, and remember rushing home
from Resurrection, and having our moms time us." - Peggy Z.
"They had us scared to death."
- Linda M.
"I remember a homework assignment.
We had to go home and find a spot to hide if the Soviets marched down our
street. I remember finding out that my brother's cupboard had an extra
shelf. I could climb up there and hide under the sheets and blankets. Then I
realized that I wouldn't be able to get rid of the chair that I used to climb
up. I still remember the fear instilled in me by a very stupid homework
assignment." - Sarah Q.
A Fallout Shelter sign on the Post Office
on Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
Duck and Cover rehearsals, and air raid
drills, seem to have ended by the early-1970s, and students were left with the
ocassional fire drill to break the monotony of the average school day.
With the threat of nuclear attack diminished, many of the Civil Defense
Shelters have been either decommissioned or have fallen into a state of
unpreparedness. In 1978, there were 2207 fallout shelters in Allegheny
County. Today they number in the hundreds.
In any case, if one day we see the
blinding light and notice two suns in the sunset, remember the wise words
of Bert the Turtle ... "Duck and Cover!"
Snowball Battles - Dan Beard's Rules
Winter in Brookline can be a difficult
time for the older folks, having to commute back and forth to work on slippery
roads. For the kids, it's more of an adventure. One of their favorite winter
pasttimes is having snowball battles.
Often times snowball fights take place
out on the front street, dodging in and out of the parked cars for protection.
Some kids get a bit more creative, and build snow forts, then take turns
attacking and defending it. This was often done in the hilly front yards,
with the defenders in a fort at the top of the rise near the porch, and
the attackers having the disadvantage of fighting an uphill battle.
This brings us to a frontier legend
named Daniel Carter Beard, who lived from 1850 to 1941. Dan Beard was raised
in Covington, Kentucky. As he grew older, Beard became aware that the boyhood
pasttimes and skills he had learned in the wooded countryside were not being
passed on to boys who were growing up in the urban areas, where open woods
no longer existed.
Dan Beard made numerous sketches showing
these outdoor activities, and recorded details about these skills. One of the
first books he published, in 1882, was called The American Boys Handy Book.
His books sold well, and in 1906 he created an organization called the
"Sons of Daniel Boone" to teach these skills. This group was the forerunner to
the modern-day Boy Scouts.
Daniel Beard became known to the Cub Scouts
of Pack 18 at the United Presbyterian Church in 1941. Informational pamphlets
given to the scouts contained many of Beard's sketches. Some of these dealt with
snowball battles, which led one inquisitive youngster to research Beard's American
Boys Handy Book and learn more.
What the young scout discovered was that
there really are defined rules for snowball engagements, and that these rules had
been on the books since 1882. After carefully reading the guide, he discovered
that, despite having spent his entire life without the benefit of frontier
knowledge, he and his friends knew how to put on a proper snowball battle.
With minor exceptions, the rules laid down by Dan Beard were basically the
same that had been passed down from generation to generation, from the Big
Kids to the Little Kids.
Defenders and attackers having a snowball
battle in the front yard at 1002 Berwin Avenue in 1940.
Dan Beard's official rules of warfare
governing a snowball battle are as follows:
* Sides are divided by Patrols. The
defenders of the fort it being supposed that one-third behind fortifications
are equal to two-thirds outside. One Patrol might defend the fort, while two
Patrols can join forces to attack. The Patrol Leaders decide, by lot, the
choice of position. Only the attacking party is allowed shields and
* At least thirty yards from the fort
a camp must be established by the outsiders or attacking army, and stakes
driven at the four corners to locate the camp. Imaginary lines from stake
to stake mark its limits. Each party will have its Patrol Flag which it
carries with it in the assault. The defenders of the fort must see to it
that all damages to the fortifications are promptly repaired.
* Any soldier from the fort who shall
be carried off within the limits of the camp becomes a prisoner of war, and
cannot leave the camp until rescued by his own comrades.
* Any one of the attacking force pulled
into the fort becomes a prisoner of war, and must remain in the fort until it
is captured. Prisoners of war cannot be made to fight against their own side,
but they may be employed in making snowballs or repairing damages to
fortifications. Any deserter recaptured must suffer the penalty of being made
to work with the prisoners of war.
* When the outsiders, or attacking army,
can replace the enemy's colors with their battle-flag, the fort is captured
and the battle is won by the attacking party; all fighting must then
* But if, in a sally, or, by any means,
the soldiers of the fort can take the colors of the opposite party from the
camp and bring them inside their fortifications, they have not only successfully
defended their fort, but have defeated the attacking army; and this ends the
battle, with double honors to the brave defenders.
* No water-soaked or icy snow-balls are
allowed. No honorable boy uses them, and any one caught in the ungentlemanly
act of throwing such "soakers" should be forever ruled out of the
* No blows are allowed to be struck by
the hand, or by anything but the regulation snowball, and, of course, no
kicking is permitted.
Sled Riding In A Winter Wonderland
Snowball battles were just one of the
many fun things to do when the white flakes of winter covered the streets and
turned Brookline into a winter wonderland. Sled Riding was another favorite
pasttime for anyone who has grown up near the steep streets along the
hillsides. Throughout the neighborhood there are many notable hills that
were turned into sledding slopes, some of which rivaled those of the Seven
Capital, Rossmore, Queensboro and
Castlegate Avenues are a few of the many fine streets
for sledding. In the days before it became necessary to salt every road
in the city, these steep hills were generally ignored. Occasionally a
vehicle would try to make it up or down, often getting stuck. As long as
the snow lasted, these streets belonged to the kids.
Danny McGibbeny and Clint Burton sledding
on Birchland in 1965.
One legendary slope was Birchland
Street, a monster hill in East Brookline that descended from Milan
Avenue past Bellaire Place to Brookline Boulevard. The hill was alive with
children riding their red flyers, toboggans and saucers from morning to
night. The Red Flyer sleds, with the steel rails, would spark over the
Belgian Blocks that made up the road surface.
The adventurous few began at
Milan and sped down the first three sections of the hill, baling out
along the fourth, near the bottom approaching busy Brookline Boulevard. Often
a snow wall was built to keep out cars and stop runaway sleds. Building
jumps at Bellaire was a thrilling way to leap over the tire ruts and
continue down the hill. There were enough kids going up and down the hill
that there was always someone to watch for cars coming down
Birchland Street, looking up from
near Brookline Boulevard towards Milan Avenue, in December 2012.
It seems like the best snow days of
all were the ones when school was cancelled due to a storm. Everyone was
outside playing and the snow was packed firmly from all the activity. Coming
back home after a few hours, cold and wet, and having mom make some hot
chocolate was the greatest. After warming up and putting on dry clothes,
it was back out for some more fun throwing snowballs and sledding
down Birchland Street.
Another fun thing to do was to adorn the
front yard with a snowman. Rolling the snow into three balls and placing them
on top of each other, biggest to smallest, made the body. Adding the accessories
was the best part. Stones, sticks, scarves, carrots, hats and gloves
turned Frosty into something special. If the weather stayed cold he could
last for a week or two. These snowmen came in many different shapes and
sizes. They were all special parts of what made Brookline a Winter
Wonderland for the neighborhood kids.
What's In A Name? - Brookline Streets
Prior to 1908, Brookline Boulevard
was known as Knowlson Avenue, from Pioneer Avenue to its terminus at Whited
Street. The same can be said of many of Brookline's back streets. Old street
maps, provided by Jim Moran, document the rapid changing of street names when
the Brookline section of West Liberty Borough was annexed into the City of
Prior to annexation, Bellaire Avenue
was known as Beacom and Bellaire Place was Beverly. Whited went through a
series of changes, from Weston to Knowlson to Oak. Milan was called
Belmont. Merrick was known as Whited, Oakridge as Ormond, and Creedmoor was
Carlton. Bodkin Street was known as Hunter Avenue, and from 1908 to 1935 as
a part of Brookline Boulevard itself. Pioneer Avenue was known for some time
as Lang Avenue, and West Liberty Avenue was Plummers Run.
<View Old Brookline Street Maps>
Some of the other Brookline side streets
and their former names follow:
Wedgemere - West Point, Flatbush
- Winchester, Queensboro - Marlboro, Chelton - Chelsea, Rossmore - Cromwell,
Gallion - Glendale (also Montour), Edgebrook - Putnam, Woodbourne - Bunker
Hill, Bayridge - Sumner, Fordham - Brynmawr, Norwich - Lexington, Castlegate
- Concord, Midland - Merton (also Merrimac), Breining - Richmond and
Berwin - Cambridge, Plainview -
Highland, Woodward - Willoughby, Woldford - Winthrop, Beaufort - Oxford,
Birtley - Beverage, Bellbrook - Benkerd, LaMarida - Strang, Fernhill -
Siebert, Mayville - Centre, Dunster - Dentgon, Crysler - Clermont.
The community of Brookline stands
1250 feet above sea level. Once refered to as Oak Hill, the lush, rolling
landscape in and around Brookline was once covered in tall White Oak, Ash
and Birch trees, quite a contrast to the dingy urban atmosphere only a
couple of miles away in the industrial city of Pittsburgh,
The same can be said for Brookline,
Massachusetts, a lush,
well-watered farming community in New England, located not far from the
bustling port city of Boston. The notable exception would be that Brookline,
Massachusetts stands only fifty feet above sea level.
The earliest recorded settlers in the
South Hills were Pennsylvania Militiamen that received land grants from the
State Legislature after the American Revolution in lieu of payment in gold
and silver for their wartime service. Their surveyed claims are documented in
a collection of 1787 Warrantee Maps.
In the mid-1800s, Richard Knowlson and
his wife Harriette, along with sons John and Thomas, and daughter Elizabeth,
migrated to Pittsburgh. Richard was born in England and Harriette was
originally from eastern Pennsylvania. They settled in Lower Saint Clair
Township, in what is now the southwestern portion of Brookline. The Knowlsons
had ties to the New England town bearing that name. Richard and Harriette
started the 170-acre Knowlson Farm.
The Knowlsons felt that their new
surroundings reminded them so much of the Massachusetts town that they began
to call their little piece of southwestern Pennsylvania "Brookline."
The boundaries of Knowlson Farm, shown on
an 1886 map (left), and outlined on a 2013 map of Brookline.
Richard Knowlson was a prominent
figure in the formation of West Liberty Borough. He provided land for an
orphanage along Hunter Avenue (Bodkin Street) and for a church that bore
his name, the Knowlson Methodist Church, built in 1868 along West Liberty
According to the 1880 census, the
following Knowlsons lived in West Liberty Borough:
- Richard (75) and wife Harriette (60). Richard's occupation was listed as farmer.
Household members included Elizabeth Fleming (43-daughter), David Fleming
(22-grandson), Richard K. Fleming (21-grandson), Walter R. Fleming (6-grandson),
Lizzie Fleming (4-granddaughter), Margaret Ott (21-servant) and Annie
- Thomas (45) and wife Annie (35). Thomas' occupation was listed as farmer.
Household members included Richard Knowlson (11-son), Jane Knowlson (8-daughter),
Lydia Knowlson (5-daughter), John Knowlson (3-son) and Ellen Knowlson
- John (41) and wife Mary Ann (33). John's occupation was listed as farmer.
Household members included Isaac Knowlson (15-son), Mary Knowlson (12-daughter),
Thomas Knowlson (9-son) and Annie Knowlson (6-daughter).
- Isaac (38) and wife Alla (30). Isaac, a relative who migrated from England,
was listed as a brickmaker. Household members included William Knowlson
(11-son), Ira Knowlson (8-daughter) and George Knowlson (2-son).
In the 1890s, some of the Knowlson
land was deeded to the Flemings and the Gutbub family. At the turn of the
century, when residential development came to the South Hills, most of
the remaining Knowlson land was sold to the West Liberty Improvement
Company. The land comprised most of the First and Third Ward plots
in the fledgling community of Brookline.
Richard Knowlson - circa
Many of the Knowlson family members
remained close to the Brookline area for many years. Thomas Knowlson's
son Richard, a successful Pittsburgh businessman, retained a sizeable
plot of land along Pioneer Avenue. Some of this was purchased by the
Pittsburgh Public School Board for the construction of Brookline
Elementary School in 1909. Additional land adjacent to the school
was made available in 1923 for a playground and future school
When the West Liberty Improvement
Company laid out the road network of Brookline's First Ward, they named
one tree-lined avenue Knowlson Avenue, in honor of the pioneering family
that long ago laid the seed that led to our neighborhood's official
Much of Brookline's Knowlson Avenue still
has that early-20th century red-brick, tree-lined appearance.
Another lasting legacy of the Knowlson
family lies in the names of the many of the streets that made up the First
and Third Wards of Brookline carry Bostonian designations. Avenues like
"Dorchester", "Fordham", "Woodbourne", "Berkshire", "Norwich", "Bayridge",
"Castlegate", "Ardsley", "Queensboro" and "Sussex" are in keeping with our
Brookline, Massachusetts connection.
There are four distinct cities in
the United States of America that carry the name of Brookline. In addition
to Brookline, Massachusetts, there is also a city called Brookline in the
states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Missouri. What a strange feeling it
would be to be driving down a Massachusetts avenue and encounter a sign
that says "Entering Brookline."
The following maps show the transition of
Brookline from rural West Liberty Borough (1876), through the first residential growth
phase (1910) to modern-day Brookline (1997), with it's current borders and street
layout. The maps show a great deal about the development of the
In the 19th century, West Liberty Borough,
which also included Beechview, was dominated by farms and mining ventures.
Scattered homes and a few commercial properties dotted the landscape. As late as
1905, Brookline Boulevard was listed as Knowlson Avenue and housing development
had only begun, with just the Paul Place, Hughey Farms and Fleming Place Plans
on the map. By 1910 the community had been annexed into the city of Pittsburgh
and the rural landscape began to take on a more urban look. This development
continued through the 1970s.
<Colonial Survey Maps of Land Grants
in the South Hills>
1876> <Brookline Map
1896> <Brookline Map
1910> <Brookline Map
1926> <Brookline Map
1997> <Brookline Map
<Map Of The 72 Brookline Developmental
<Map Showing Growth Of
<Old Maps of Brookline's Oak
<Brookline Geodetic and Topographic Maps
Brookline Aerial Views
The following images give a bird's eye
view of Brookline from 1939 through 2006. These aerial views show how the community
developed over that sixty-eight year time frame.
<1939> <1947> <1948> <1949> <1952>
<1957> <1959> <1967> <1969> <2005> <2006>
A 2011 satellite image of the intersection
of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue.
Lost Community Of Brookdale
Take a ride up Breining Street,
past Carmalt School. Once past the school, rather than continue onto Glenbury
and down to Route 51, turn to the left onto what appears to be a side street.
This is actually a continuation of Breining Street. Head down the short hill
and around the bend to the right. After the turn the street designation changes
to Briggs Street. Continuing straight leads to the intersection with
At the turn, on the left side of the road
sits an inconspicuous set of jersey barriers along the edge of the woods. Unless
one lived in Brookline prior to 1980, they might not realise it, but they had
just passed what was, at one time, the entrance to a long-forgotten sublplot
of homes known as Brookdale. A left turn would have taken a traveler onto an
extension of Briggs Street that stretched deep into the wooded valley,
intersecting with Daleview Street and Oakridge Street.
During the East Brookline construction
boom in the mid-1920s, this wooded section of Brookline (then still considered
a part of Overbrook Borough) was slated for residential development. An entire
network of roads and home lots was planned, beginning at Breining Street and
covering thirty acres. The Brookdale development, when completed, would have
drastically altered the East Brookline landscape.
When the Brookdale subplot was originally
laid out, developers also had an eye on the adjacent twenty acre Anderson Farm, which
stood to the west between the existing section of Oakridge Street and the Oakridge
extension in Brookdale, and the ten acre Hays Estate to the east. Briggs Street
was intended to continue through the farm property to a proposed junction with
Brookline Boulevard near Birchland Street. More ambitious plans included widening
Brookline Boulevard to four lanes at Breining Street and diverting the
main avenue through the valley to a major intersection with Saw Mill Run
Boulevard near Overbrook School.
In the early-1920s, the Brookdale
Improvement Company began laying out the streets in the thirty acres adjacent
to the farm. By 1940, five homes had been built in the Brookdale project, and
in 1945 the Brookline Joint Civic Committee presented a plan for the boulevard
realignment. The key to the successful completion of this plan and the
further development of Brookdale depended upon the acquisition of the
Unfortunately, the winds of change blew
in a different direction. In May of 1947, the Anderson family sold their
twenty-acres to the Brookline Memorial Community Center Association to be
turned into a neighborhood park. The Anderson home was used as a Recreation
Building and the surrounding land was converted into ballfields and other
outdoor recreation facilities.
The Brookline Memorial Community Center was a great addition to the community, but
it had disastrous effects on the pending Brookdale proposal. With the park land
now off limits to development, the connecting roadways along Brookline Boulevard
and Oakridge Street could not be built. This left the housing plan isolated with
only one way in and out, the intersection of Briggs and Breining.
The home at 1644 Oakridge Street was one
of four homes built the Oakridge extension.
Over the next forty years, only one
more home was built. Altogether, four homes were constructed on Oakridge Street
and two on Daleview Street. The other roads laid down were a section of Cortina
Way and a short alleyway between Oakridge and Daleview, called Don Way. The rest
of the ambitious Brookdale project was never completed.
One of the homes in Brookdale was a
two story brick house at 82 Daleview Street, three lots east of Briggs Street.
It was built by Elmer J. Hadley, a long-time employee of Duquesne Light Company.
The home at 82 Daleview eventually passed to Elmer's daughter, Salley Hadley-Aul.
Salley had two children, Robin and Randy, who remember Brookdale as a wonderful,
peaceful place to live. Growing up in the woods, with vine swings, deer, pheasants,
and other wild animals made for a unique lifestyle. The lack of autmobile thru
traffic was a rarity in busy Brookline, and living so close to a public park,
with a swimming pool, ballfields and other attractions was an added bonus.
The home at 82 Daleview Street (left) and
a view from Daleview up Briggs Street towards Breining.
In 1969, the thirty acres of Brookdale
were acquired by the city of Pittsburgh, along with the ten remaining acres
of woodland stretching east to the railroad abutment, as part of a forty acre
enlargement of Brookline Memorial Park. The homes were taken over by the
Urban Redevelopment Authority and used as rental property. By a special lease
agreement, Mrs. Aul was able to remain in her home on Daleview.
The rental properties became run down and
were vacated. One by one they were demolished. Ten years later, only the Hadley
house on Daleview remained. In 1982, Sally Hadley-Aul moved out and turned the
property over to the city. The Hadley home was razed in 1985, and the jersey
barriers were placed at Briggs and Breining Street, marking the final chapter
in the history of Brookdale.
Jacob And Milton Hays
Jacob and Jane Hays, whose estate sat
near the lower end of Whited Street, once owned the majority of property in
East Brookline. He sold the mining rights, and over the years parceled off much
of his estate to farming families or to his family heirs. In 1874, his son
Milton Hays, owner of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, still had
the deed to sixty acres near Oak Station (Overbrook School). That same year,
Milton sold twenty of those acres to James Anderson, who started the Anderson
This first image is from a 1905 map showing
the landowners and boundaries present at that time. In 1905, this was
part of Overbrook and land was made up of a few farms and woodlands. An old coal
railroad spur line extended
from the P&CSRR tracks into the valley. When Brookline's trolley line was first
laid down that same year,
it was a single track line that ran from West Liberty Avenue and connected to the
old railroad line.
By the turn of the century, Milton
still owned the thirty acres adjoining the Anderson Farm, and his children
owned the remaining ten acres up to the West Side Belt Railway line. Hays
eventually sold his thirty acres to the Brookdale Improvement Company for
housing development. When Overbrook School was built in 1928, two sets of
city steps were constructed on the remaining Hays property.
The steps descended from each end of
Jacob Street, a roadway that was interrupted by the steep valley. They led to
a walkway that went through the railroad tunnel to the new school. Since this
was part of Overbrook Borough at the time, the steps were necessary for public
school children in East Brookline, who were sent to Overbook schools. The steps
were also a convenient way for local commuters to access the Pittsburgh Railways
Castle Shannon and Overbrook streetcar lines.
Aerial Views Of Brookdale
An aerial view of the Brookdale subplot
in 1939. Four homes are built and another going up on Oakridge Street.
Acquiring the Anderson Farm to the left is the key to the further
development of the Brookdale property.
An aerial view of the Brookdale subplot
in 1957. The Anderson Farm is now The Brookline Memorial Community Center.
An aerial view of the Brookdale subplot
in 1967. A sixth home now stands near the intersection of Oakridge and Briggs.
An aerial view of the abandoned Brookdale
subplot in 2012. Still visible through the trees is the outline of the roads.
Overbrook Borough was annexed into the
City of Pittsburgh in 1930. At that time the homes in East Brookline, including
the Brookdale subdivision were added to the Brookline census tract. Homes along
the Glenbury Street hillside, adjoining the Brookdale homes, remained part of
the Overbrook neighborhood.
In 1969, the remaining ten acres of
the East Brookline property owned by the Hays family was ceded to the city in
lieu of back taxes. The former Milton Hays estate now makes up the forty acre
greenway of Brookline Memorial Park.
Photos Showing Remnants Of Brookdale
Today, only bits and pieces of the
Brookdale subplot exist. After two decades of neglect, most of the land has
become overgrown, reclaimed by the trees and shrubs. The roads have reverted
back to dirt paths best suited for off road dirt bikes.
Exploration of the forty acre greenway
revealed an old home foundation, a set of steps, a disabled fire hydrant and
some slabs of asphalt and concrete. The city steps between the two sections of
Jacob Street are still there, as well as the railroad tunnel, which leads to
the Port Authority South Busway. These photos below were taken in 2013,
thirty-one years after the Brookdale streets were abandoned.
Entering Brookdale from Breining
Street and looking along Briggs Street.
Some cement slabs near
intersection of Briggs and Daleview Street.
An abandoned fire hydrant
near the intersection of Briggs and Oakridge Street.
The foundation and steps of the
home that stood near Daleview and Cortina Way.
A sidewalk leading towards
the Jacob Street city steps (left) and a view from the
Overbrook side of the valley along the steps to the Brookline side.
Looking up the steps towards
Overbrook (left) and the pathway leading to the South Busway.
A view from inside the railroad tunnel
looking west towards Brookdale (left) and a closer view of the fire hydrant.
The railroad tunnel was built in 1909 during
a major upgrade of the old West Side Belt Railway line.
The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad still uses the tracks above to transport coal
and natural gas.
Brookline Street Map - 1940
Brookline Street Map - 1997
Final Note: The 1940 map shows the
Pittsburgh Railways right-of-way that ran east to west through the wooded valley
floor to a connection with the main rail network that ran along the Saw Mill Run
Corridor. In 1905 a single-track line was laid along this path, connecting
to a discontinued coal railroad spur line that extended into the valley. The old
railroad line was part of the Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad.
The extended trolley service lasted only
a couple years. The track was abandoned beyond Edgebrook Avenue in 1909. Later,
it was brought back into East Brookline, with a turnaround loop along the 1400
block of Brookline Boulevard. Although no longer in use, the Port Authority retained
ownership of the valley floor right-of-way until 1969, when the land was
acquired by the City of Pittsburgh.
Thanks to Randy Aul,
Robin Aul, Jaison Viglietta, Mike Brendel and Doug Brendel
for providing photos and information on the Brookdale area.
Pittsburgh and Brookline Population
The population of the Brookline area
remained small throughout the 18th and 19th century. The first real boom
came in 1900, when the Fleming Place and Hughey Farms housing developments
were built. In the next ten years, the population grew from the hundreds
to the thousands. This growth continued unabated for the next fifty
According to 2010 census results,
the population in the neighborhood of Brookline now stands at 13,214,
down over 7,000 since residency peaked at 20,381 in 1960. Brookline
now ranks as the third most populous community in the City of Pittsburgh,
behind Squirrel Hill South (15,110) and Shadyside (13,915). The City of
Pittsburgh's total population was recorded at 305,704 in 2010, ranking
59th on the list of United States cities, down over 50% from it's peak
number of 676,806 in 1950.
2010 - 305704
2000 - 334563
1990 - 369879
1980 - 423938
1970 - 520117
1960 - 604332
1950 - 676806
1940 - 671659
2010 - 13214
2000 - 14316
1990 - 15488
1980 - 17231
1970 - 20336
1960 - 20381
1950 - 16559
1940 - 14721
Some Random Notes on Brookline's Past
* In the wintertime there was always
sled riding on the city streets. There was a dandy sled track on Bellaire
Avenue from Flatbush Avenue toward Wedgemere. There were manhole covers that
always seemed to be bare of snow, and they would always cause sparks to fly.
Other good tracks were Castlegate and Starkamp. Those in East Brookline
would gather on Milan Avenue or the cobblestone hill called
* Down from the Little Store on Pioneer
Avenue, at the bottom of Metz Way, their was a small clearing that was used
by the Steiner family for picnics. The Steiners lived in the last house on
the lower end of Birtley. On summer weekends during the 1930s, they held
German-style parties. They would drink beer, play the accordion, and sing
German songs. After Germany declared war on the United States, the parties
continued, but the family sang only American songs.
A Slag Train preparing to dump it's molten
slag over the hillside in West Mifflin.
* When we were little kids growing up
in the 1960s, our parents would take us out to Brown's Dump, near the present-day
Century III Mall in West Mifflin, to watch the slag trains dump their molten
cargo over the hillside. They would park the car on the other side of Saw Mill
Run Boulevard and we would just sit and wait for the next train. They ran
all night and all day. When one would appear, we would all eagerly watch
as the red hot liquid would roll down the hill like lava from a volcano.
It was quite a spectacle. These were highly anticipated trips, and something
that Brookline parents had been treating the neighborhood kids to for decades.
The dumping in West Mifflin stopped in the late 1960s. There are three slag
heaps in West Mifflin, and they are the highest man-made mountains in
<Learn More About Brown's Dump>
* Brookline School used to have a big plot
of ground for their use as a school garden. It was located between
Gallion and Rossmore Avenues, near Pioneer. The kids were assigned plots and planted,
weeded and hoed their own garden. In fact, this practice started with Brookline
School and was so successful that it spread to other city schools.
Brookline's West Liberty School also had their own gardens. The produce supplied
the children with fresh vegetables for lunch and the surplus was sold at the local
The Brookline Elementary School gardens in
1916. The students tended the crops during recess.
The vegetables were used during school lunch and the excess sold to
Behind the young farmers is Gallion Avenue and Beaufort Avenue heading up
* Resurrection Church used to be in the
basement of the present school building. After a particularly damp spell, the
floor (which was laid on the ground) would buckle and everyone would have to watch
their step so they wouldn't trip. At Father Quinn's request, some of the men of
the parish volunteered their services, and took up the whole wooden floor, put
down a concrete floor and relaid the wooden floor. Father Quinn worked right along
with the men, wheeling concrete in a wheelbarrow.
* There were hundreds of mules that used to
work in the coal mines behind Edgebrook Avenue. During the days the mining company
would bring the mules to a large open field (called the Donkey Field) that stood
in the center of the large patch of woods that stood between LaMarido Street and
Edgebrook Avenue. The mules would graze their and rest peacefully in the sunshine.
It was a nice break from their usual routine, which was pulling rail cars loaded
with coal out of the mine, then back again for another load.
A view of the open lot between 956
and 962 Brookline Boulevard, taken from the back alley.
* Between the businesses at 956 and 962
Brookline Boulevard is an open space, listed as Lot#1546 on city planning maps.
This is near the Cannon Memorial, and for decades there has been a billboard
standing between the two buildings. This lot was never developed, other than
constructing the billboard, and up until the mid-1980s the walkway in front
of the sign was made of wood. It was known locally as the boardwalk. The reason
for the boardwalk and lack of development is that a natural spring emerges
on this spot and the constant flow of groundwater made it impractical to build on
this spot. When the boardwalk was finally replaced with a concrete sidewalk, a large
drainage pipe was placed underneath so that the seepage could drain down the
hillside towards the alleyway.
* The original Brookline single-track streetcar
line used to end at Creedmore Avenue, and had to be extended to Fairhaven (Overbrook)
so Pittsburgh Railways could keep their franchise. The track was only in place for
a couple years, but the old tunnel that leads to the PAT south busway, at the bottom
of the city steps by Jacob Street, was constructed by the West Side Belt Railroad
with the trolley line in mind. Metal pins high along the sides of the tunnel were
intended for the electrical guide line.
The Little Store, shown here in 1924, stands
to the left on Pioneer Avenue.
* Back in 1924, the "little store" on
Pioneer Avenue was owned by a family named Fyke. A few years later it was taken
over by the Nefts, who turned it into a full-fledged grocery store, with a fresh
meat counter, and delivery service. Mr Neft had a number of young people as
part-time help, including Bud and Ruth Morehead, who lived on Pioneer Avenue just
past Ray Avenue, and Tom Hillgrove, who drove the delivery truck. Mr. Neft was
a member of the tennis club, who played on two tennis courts down the alley
(Metz Way) behind the store. Mr. Neft had a heart attack and dropped dead on the
court. Another tennis club member was Mr. McKinley, who was a fireman at the
Brookline engine house.
* Along Pioneer Avenue, across the street
from the Little Store at Metz Way, was a family named the Lambs. There was a
large open field next to their property that was good for playing ball or
riding bikes. It was called Lamb's Field.
Children gather around a traveling
Merry-Go-Round on Chelton Avenue in 1946.
* There was a spring at 725 Berkshire Avenue,
and one at what is now the intersection of the lower end of Bodkin Street and
Brookline Boulevard. A brook flowed adjacent to Edgebrook Avenue. In addition to
Saw Mill Run Creek, a creek also flowed along West Liberty Avenue which was known
as Plummer's Run. A duck pond was located in the area near McNeilly Road. The area
to the left of Edgebrook Avenue was also a pond (Luppy's Pond) until it was drained
after World War II to permit residential development. Throughout the community
there are still several spots were ground water flows to the surface.
* There was a fad in the late-30s for boys
to wear hats made by cutting the crown out of a discarded man's felt fedora hat,
scalloping the edge, turning it up, and then festooning the whole thing with bottle
caps from pop bottles which were attached to the hat by prying out the cork seal,
then forcing it back into the bottle cap from inside the hat (with the bottlecap
on the outside). These hats were called "beanies."
Beanie Caps were a popular choice for kids
in the 1940s.
* Birtley Avenue was a dirt road in the
mid-1930s, as was Berwin Avenue beyond the intersection with the southern end
of Birtley Avenue. The shortest way to get to the foot of hill at Wedgemere
Avenue, at the intersection with Gallion, was a pathway known as the Short Cut.
It had three sets of steps connected by walkways. Originally, the walkway was
made of wood planks. Eventually the short cut was paved with concrete. Near
Gallion it was divided into circular form with a small tree in the middle and
a wooden bench around the tree. Learning to use the Short Cut was a lesson in
a much larger body of knowledge that the Little Kids acquired from the Big Kids
in the neighborhood. There were many other complicated pathways to Brookline
Boulevard, also refered to as short cuts. Kids could use alleys or trespass
on private property, a process called "cutting through". There was a kind of
obligation to pass on this special knowledge to future generations.
* Growing up on the 1300 block of Bellaire
Place in the 1960s, there was a brown dog, a boxer named Sparky, who was well
known throughout the area. Sparky would tag along with the boys to Brookline
Park, walking along the pipe and scaling fences to keep an eye on her friends.
Sparky had a thing for fresh baked goods. She was often caught sneaking off
with a pie that was cooling on a nearby windowsill, and once brought a fully-cooked
turkey home for Thanksgiving. Whenever a neighbors child would wander away,
they were often found with Sparky, who had a knack for leading them home and
away from danger. Sometimes refered to as Spark Plug, she had a thing for
motorcycles. Whenever one would come rumbling down the street she would take
off like a greyhound, often chomping at the riders legs until they sped away.
Satisfied that she had done her duty she trotted back home to await a new
adventure. It was a dog's life to be sure, and those who knew her will always
Sparky the brown boxer and some of her
Bellaire Place friends.
* Back in the 1930s and 1940s, not many
people would have recognized the name Earl Ebersole, although it seemed that
everyone knew him. He was refered to as either "Cowboy" or "Indian." He never
appeared in public except in costume. Earl lived on Dunster with his family.
He walked everywhere in Brookline and was instantly recognized on the street.
He wore very elaborate costumes, and often wore a pair of high boots that laced
up to the calf. Although not a policeman or traffic guard, Earl often stood in
the middle of the intersection and directed traffic at the corner of Pioneer
Avenue and Brookline Boulevard. Sometimes he would do this along Pioneer at
the entrance to Moore Park, and he was really good at it. Aside from the zany
costumes and strange antics, Earl the Indian, or Cowboy depending on his
costume of the day, was a very nice guy. It was rumored that he had been gassed
in WWI and had lost part of his identity, which became fused into the Cowboy and
* There was a milkman, ages ago, named Johnny
Haigle, and old Grandpa Marloff, who used to come around with these huge containers
of milk to deliver. Then, there was Mr. Catterall, who sang at many of the weddings
at Resurrection Church. Finally, there was the large, jolly cop who walked the beat
on Brookline Boulevard named Officer Hogel. The kids loved him.
Long-time Brookline Police Officer
* There is a section of Woodward Avenue,
just to the left of Belle Isle Avenue, where there is a break in the roadway.
Woodward begins at Capital Avenue and stretches all the way to Bodkin Street,
with the exception of this small area that is blocked off from traffic, which in
effect breaks the avenue into two distinct sections. The reason that Woodward
Avenue is blocked at this point is because of an old cemetery plot from the 1800s
that is located on this spot. The graves could not be moved, by law, for 100
years. When that time had elapsed, the plot of land was left as is. Up until
the 1970s, there were still grave markers on the grounds. One of these was
for a horse. In the 1980s the markers were moved, but the plot remained open
ground. It is told that there are still family descendants that visit the
plot from time to time to pay their respects. Although the stones were moved,
some of them still lie unattended on the land. Time has worn away the names
and dates on these markers.
* Every Christmas the boulevard is
decorated with lighted wreaths that adorn the light poles along Brookline
Boulevard. Back in the 1970s, the wreaths were a bit larger and more elaborate,
including stars, candy canes, trees and round wreaths, with one on every pole.
There was also a long, lighted holiday banner that hung across the intersection
of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue that read "Season's Greetings." In 1983,
the Chamber of Commerce sold decorative christmas tree bulbs.
* For many years there was a crossing guard
stationed at Creedmoor Avenue and Brookline Boulevard. She was as well-known to
the students at Resurrection Elementary as Sam Bryen was to Little League players.
Both before and after school, she would wait until a group had gathered, then
stride out to the middle of the boulevard crosswalk, one hand out-stretched to
ward off traffic, and the other waving for the students to begin crossing.
"Ok, Honeys, Let's Go!" was her invitation. It was pure Norman Rockwell. She knew
all of our names, and also the names of our brothers, uncles, aunts and at times
our parents. She was always there, and a friend to generations of adults and
children. Her name was Sue Moyer.
* One day at the now-forgotten Foodland at
McNeilly and Sussex, I ran into a portly man, one who inspired both frustration
and determination throughout the many years that he taught at South Hills Catholic High
School and Seton-LaSalle. He taught advanced English, as well as drama and theatre.
He was my English teacher, and was without a doubt the hardest teacher I ever had.
Making the grade was very difficult and his was the one class I dreaded most.
Inside the store, I approached him and introduced myself, then proceeded to tell
him that despite being the teacher that I feared the most, in retrospect he was
the best I had ever learned from. He taught me to appreciate literature and written
skills. He taught me that with hard work, success is always a possibility. His
name was Ted White.
For over forty years the Dairy Dan truck
traveled Brookline streets selling ice cream treats.
* As children in the 1970s, there was a
special treat on hot summer days that just couldn't be beat. No matter what we were
doing, when we heard the sound of the Dairy Dan Ice Cream truck coming down the
street, we instantly ran for mother to get a dime so that we could by all meet
back on the street corner and get a snack. Sometimes mom would make us find the
change purse, causing some stress as we thought we might miss our treat. The delay
wasn't really a problem. There was always a line at the Dairy Dan truck so we had
time to get there. My favorite was the ice cream sandwich. If we were being bad
that day mom would correct us by threatening a ban on Dairy Dan. That was strong
medicine. The Dairy Dan Ice Cream truck worked the Brookline streets for over forty
years, finally retiring in 2012. The truck itself is not in Texas. The photo above
shows the famous truck as it was being set to leave Pittsburgh.
* Off of Edgebrook Avenue, to the left in
the woods was Luppy's Pond, where kids used to damn up the stream to create their
own pool of water. In the same area as Luppy's Pond, up the hill a bit in the
woods, were some really old pioneer gravestones. One of the tombstones was etched
with the name of Mary Boggs.
The Cunocar truck, parked on the boulevard
outside St. Mark Church in 1946.
* Cunocar was a traveling accounting and
bookkeeping service run by Robert Rebel and Gerald Wickman. The business was
located at 908 Brookline Boulevard, in an office above Brookline News. Both Robert
and Gerald got their start working as tellers at the Brookline Savings and
* On July 27, 2007, Brookline was the scene
of a massive water main break that sent a 150 foot geyser of water and debris
into the air along the 1000 block of Bellaire Avenue. The break was in the
alleyway along Fitch Way, behind DeBor Funeral Home and the Bellaire Avenue
homes. At least ten houses suffered structural damage and basement flooding
from the persistent waterfall. Several cars were submerged and water teamed down
Starkamp Street like a rushing river. Pennsylvania American Water took responsibility
for the disaster and worked with homeowners on cleanup and restoration
The scene along Bellaire Avenue during the
water main break on July 7, 2007.
* On July 30, 1929, the Common Pleas Court
handed down a decision outlawing the erection of chicken coops in Brookline.
The decision by Judge Ambrose B. Reid stated that no more chicken coops would
be permitted to be built in this section of the city, and when the present
coops have outlived their usefulness they could not be replaced. A losing fight
was waged by Geary E. Carson of 808 Bellaire Avenue, who was refused a permit
to build a coop in the rear of his home. The court held that "a chicken coop is
not an accessory use of property permitted there by the zoning commission.
Another vestige of Brookline's rural past was gone. Mother hen
and rooster were no longer welcome in Brookline.
* The photo below appeared in the February
11, 1974 edition of the Brookline Journal. This was during the 1973 Oil Crisis
(October 1973-March 1974), when OPEC made severe output cuts as a show of discontent
for U.S. support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Buying gas became quite a
challenge, and at the Mobil station at Glenarm and Brookline Boulevard, it was by
appointment only. Another crisis in 1979, during the Iran-Iraq War, forced gas
shortages that resulted in the odd-even day system (based on license plate numbers)
and the limit of $5 per purchase along the PA turnpike.
Gas was hard to come by in Brookline during
the 1973-1974 oil crisis.
* Many Brookliners have wondered why the
lower end of Chelton Avenue ends at Woodbourne and does not continue south to
the intersection with McNeilly Road. On August 20, 1952, the City Council
Committee on Public Works handed down a decision to table a proposed paving
project that would have provided direct access to McNeilly for Chelton Avenue
residents. Despite neighborhood demands, the plans were tabled due to the high
cost of the extension. Obstacles included the steep slope and the extensive
regrading necessary to extend the roadway. The improvement effort did have
some lasting benefit. A few years later, in 1960, the lower ends of Chelton,
Berkshire and Woodbourne Avenues were graded, paved in concrete and curbed,
including the installation of new sidewalks, eliminating what residents considered
"dangerous" conditions for vehicles and pedestrians.
* For several decades, beginning in the 1940s,
there was a bakery located at the corner of Brookline Boulevard, Chelton and
Queensboro Avenues, known as Kuntz Bakery. Mr. Kuntz hailed from Germany, and
had a beautiful wrought-iron railing imported that adorned the front of the
bakery at 972 Brookline Boulevard. The decorative railing featured images of
a baker holding a cake. Kuntz Bakery closed in the late-1960s, but the railing
remained for another 40 odd years. Finally, in 2013, during the reconstruction
of Brookline Boulevard and the adjoining sidewalks, the railing was removed
and placed in storage.
The Baker's Railing that stood outside the
building at 972 Brookline Boulevard for over 70 years.
* In City Council chambers on March 6, 1962,
Will Axmacher, president of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce, citing twenty-five
years of infrastructure neglect by the City of Pittsburgh, proposed fifteen
improvements that the Chamber deemed necessary for the community. At the time,
three members of City Council, Thomas Gallagher, Charles McCarthy and Council
President Patrick Fagan, were all residents of Brookline. The fifteen projects
recommended to Coundil included construction of a parking plaza on Brookline
Boulevard; repaving of Pioneer Avenue from West Liberty Avenue to Southcrest Street;
widening of Brookline Boulevard from Breining Street to Reamer Street; improvement
of Breining Street; razing the firehouse and construction of a parking
lot on the site; construction of a combined police-fire building; improvements to
the Moore Park Recreation Center; improvement of streets having ditches and open
drains; improvement of Whited Street; widening and paving of Edgebrook Avenue;
repair of sewers along Brookline Boulevard; widening and paving of Metz Way; use
of parking tokens for Brookline shoppers; a shopper's bus in Brookline; and the
creation of more parkland at the Brookline Community Center.
* On the day of Brookline's Halloween Parade, Mr.
Melman used to walk along the line of march and throw apples to the spectators.
Today, Brookline still holds the annual parade on the last weekend on October.
Fine costumes decorate both children and adults alike. In good weather or bad,
several hundred people are in attendance. The parade is sponsored by the Chamber
of Commerce. Although Mr. Melman is no longer around to throw apples to the
spectators, there are snacks available and prizes awarded for the best
The Brookline Halloween Parade (mid-1980s). The
parade is an annual October tradition.
West Liberty Avenue has the dubious
distinction of being the Auto Dealership Capital of Pittsburgh. It also
is the scene of the local fast-food franchise wars. Wendy's opened across
the street from Belle Isle Avenue, in 1974, and McDonalds followed at the
corner of Wenzell Avenue in 1981.
Although both restaurants are located
on the Beechview side of West Liberty Avenue, the fast-food giants have been
doing battle for the hearts and pallates of Brookliners for over thirty years.
Aside from a Hardees that had a brief run along Saw Mill Run Boulevard in the
1970s, Wendys and McDonalds have been the only two national fast-food burger
joints within walking distance of Brookliners.
A Double with cheese, Fries and a Frosty ... or
a Quarter Pounder with Fries and a Coke?
To the disdain of some and the delight
of others, the community of Brookline has never fallen prey to the franchise
wars, unless you consider the inordinate amount of Wendy's and McDonalds paper
trash that persistently litters our streets. If you want a good burger right
here in Brookline, try the Moonlite Cafe or the Boulevard Lounge.
That's the ticket!
Ghost Stories and Religion - Separating Fact From Fiction
The Miracle On Pioneer
As with every community, there are certain
tales that inspire the imagination of the curious few, and over time these stories
can become larger than life ... legends so-to-speak. Some deal with religion,
the search for faith, and miracles of a heavenly nature. Others delve into the
darker reaches of the mind, conjuring up visions of hauntings and eerie creatures
stalking the back roads of Western Pennsylvania.
One such tale deals with the sudden
appearance of a feint vision of the Blessed Mother that mysteriously illuminated
on a closet door in the home at 2070 Pioneer Avenue back in April of 2001. There
were two other distinct symbols of a supposedly religious significance along with
the Blessed Mother.
Visitors from far and wide flocked to the
home to witness the "miracle", which appeared only after dark, turning the quiet
Brookline residence into a sort of religious shrine for a couple weeks until the
curiosity ebbed away. See Post-Gazette Article dated April 14, 2001.
The Haunted Mansion
At the corner of Whited Street and
Ballinger, next to the old West Side Belt Railroad tracks, sits an old
mansion that has been converted into a restaurant. The building was built
in the 1850s and has reportedly been the seen of several hauntings over
the years. The stately home was once a rest stop along the railway line,
and a place to rent carriages for funerals. It is also rumored that it was
once the site of a brothel.
There have been more than a few deaths
that have occured over time. A judge once hanged himself on the third floor,
another patron mysteriously fell from a third floor window, and a pregnant
woman tumbled to her death on the second floor steps. The place was also
home to the mother of renowned Pittsburgh psychic Mr. Charles. She
passed away inside the home.
The haunted mansion at the corner of Whited
Street and Ballinger, shown in 2011.
Known for the past twenty years as
Larry's Roadhouse, staff members who have worked at the
restaurant have often been witness to strange occurances, such as objects
disappearing, electrical disturbances, footsteps being heard and apparitions
being sighted. One waitress saw the shimmery figure of a Victorian woman on
the steps which eventually faded from view. Others, after filling candy dishs,
returned to find the candy scattered on the floor, although the dishes remained
in place on the counter.
The restaurant has recently been sold
and the new owners are in the process of an extensive remodeling. It remains
to be heard whether construction workers have witnessed any strange phenomenon
within the building's 160 year old walls. Only time will tell.
The Green Man
Another tale, one of a more macabre nature,
deals with a "monster" known as "The Green Man" who, some say, haunts the roadways
of rural South Park. First witnessed back in the 1940s, it has been said that the
so-called monster has been seen as far away from his usual stalking ground as the
back roads of Brookline. Fear and the imagination can become quite a pair,
but we're pretty sure that the Green Man never made it as far north as Brookline.
There is, however, some truth in the tale of this scary individual. Learn the
haunting but true story of the Green Man in this Post-Gazette Article
dated October 31, 1998.
For fifty years, right up till the 1980s,
Raymond Robinson used to walk a lonely stretch of road between Koppel and New
Galilee for exercise. He did this under cover of at night because of what happened
to him way back in the summer of 1919. On a dare, the 8-year-old Raymond had
climbed up the pylon that held the power lines for the Harmony Line trolley in
Morado. A bird had built a nest there and his buddies wanted to know if there
were any eggs in it. Ray never saw the nest ... or anything else again.
He lost both eyes in the accident, so he
never got to see the Beaver Falls newspaper headline about what happened up that
pylon: “Morado Lad, 8, Shocked By Live Wire, Will Die.” But he did prove the
headline writer wrong. Two months later, the Daily Times reported “In spite of
all his affliction, the boy is in good humor.”
After a lengthy recuperation, Ray Robinson
was released, with a prosthetic nose connected to a pair of dark glasses that
concealed his empty eye sockets. He passed his days listening to the radio,
reading Braille, and making belts and wallets out of leather. He mowed the lawn
with a manual mower. And at night, he went for walks along route 351.
Ray Robinson, known as Charlie No Face, or
the Green Man, with teenage curiousity seekers.
Word soon spread about the disfigured
night hiker. Local teenagers began calling him Charlie No-Face; people from
further afield called him the Green Man. People began driving to the area just
to meet him. Some nights, there was such a flow of traffic to the road that
the police would be there to move things along.
Generally, Ray would hide when
he heard traffic approaching, because of a few disrespectful types. But some
curiosity seekers befriended him and he came to appreciate their company.
They’d give him cigarettes and beer, and sometimes snap pictures with
As the years went by, the stories of
the Green Man became more exaggerated as they were retold. They are still told
to this day, even though Ray Robinson died more than twenty years ago, on
June 11, 1985.
Another interesting part of the Green
Man story is the legend of the Green Man's Tunnel. Many different locations
have been identified as the site of Green Man’s Tunnel. The most popular
is Piney Fork Tunnel in South Park Township, just off Snowden Road. The
abandoned railroad tunnel stands along Piney Fork Creek and it is presently
used by the township for storing rock salt.
Piney Fork Tunnel, located in South Park
Township, is known as "Green Man's Tunnel."
Back in the 1930s, a man killed his
wife and child in that tunnel with a hatchet. Then the man jumped in front of
the train. Since then, people have reported seeing a hatchet flying at them
and hearing strange crying sounds when visiting the tunnel at night. Somehow
over the years this horrible act and the legend of the Green Man have become
intertwined, hence the tunnel being called Green Man's Tunnel. Whether the
tunnel is haunted or not is for others to decide, but we are sure that the
murder was not committed by Ray Robinson.