History Of The Brookline Community
The First 260 Years (1754-2014)

This short history attempts to explore the first 260 years of the Brookline area. Much 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.

The story is supplemented by personal recollections of long-time Brookline residents and additional research done over the past few years. We have attempted to piece all of these articles, memories and information into one essay. With certain limitations, Brookline 260 provides an interesting look back in time.

Explore the highlighted links below and throughout the text for more detailed information on the history of the Brookline community from pages of The Brookline Connection.

  A Great City Will Grow
  The British And The French
  Indians On The Warpath
  Rapid Development Of Pittsburgh
  Settlement Of St. Clair Township
  The Birth Of Brookline
  Pioneer Avenue Was A State Road
  Early Commercial Enterprises
  Ways To Travel
  All Dirt Roads
  Streetcar Service
  A Ride On The 39-Brookline
  The City Steps
  Freehold Real Estate Company
  The First Churches
  Educational Institutions Formed
  The Rumble Of The Railroad
  Coal For Heating In High Demand
  The Oak Mine Under Brookline
  The Town Of Reflectorville
  Liberty Tunnels Benefit South Hills
  Recreational Provisions
  Saw Mill Run Boulevard

Fourth Of July Parade  
The Community Picnic  
The Big Woods  
Brookline Institutions Chartered  
The Brookline Journal  
Modern Stores In The 1930s  
Rationing During World War II  
Growing Up In The 1940s  
Cold War "Duck And Cover" Drills  
Snowballs and Dan Beard's Rules  
Sledding In A Winter Wonderland  
Delivering The Morning Paper  
Brookline Street Names  
Brookline, Massachusetts  
Maps of Brookline  
Aerial Views of Brookline  
The Lost Subdivision Of Brookdale  
Other Forgotten Subdivisions  
Brookline and Pittsburgh Population  
Random Notes On Brookline's Past  
Fast Food Restaurants  
Urban Legends - Fact Or Fiction  
The Brookline Connection  

Brookline Boulevard, 1933.
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 Brookline countryside.

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 River Junction

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 surrender.

George Washington at Fort Duquesne

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.

British Fort Pitt - 1763

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.

Indians surround Fort Pitt - May, 1763
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.

Indians defeated at Battle of
Bushy Run - August 5, 1763
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 bastion.

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 projects.

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 West."

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.

Carnegie Steel Works - Homestead
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 in gold and silver 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 Shanahan."

Land Grant for David Strawbridge - 1786
David Strawbridge's 1786 land grant that later became the municipality of Castle Shannon.

Another former militiaman, Joseph McDermutt, filed his claim for 240 acres along Oak Hill. His land was called "The Hermits Cell" and occupied much of the present-day 19th Ward of Brookline.

<Survey Maps and Deeds of Original South Hills Land Grants>

A search of old records reveals the family names of Strawbridge, McKee, Shawhan, Kennedy, Fleming, Hunter, Hayes, McDermutt, 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 became a prosperous farming district.

Prior to the erection of Allegheny County in 1788, the Pittsburgh 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.

St. Clair Township, named in honor of General Arthur St. Clair, was a massive township stretching fifteen miles to the south and varying in width from six to ten miles. The northern township border was the Monongahela River, between the mouths of Chartiers Creek and Streets Run Creek. The township was as large as many counties in other parts of the state.

Allegheny County

Allegheny County was formed on September 24, 1788. At that time, the Brookline area was considered in the lower district of St. Clair Township. Many of Brookline's earliest landowners were signatories on the initial petition for the creation of the new County.

<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 present-day Brookline.

Upon the erection of Allegheny County the court proceeded to divide the County of Allegheny into three distinct districts. The first district 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. At that time, St. Clair Township was made up of the southeastern corner of present-day South Fayette Township, part of Snowden Township, the whole of Baldwin, Scott, Bethel, Upper and Lower St. Clair (Brookline/West Liberty) Townships. In 1805, Nathaniel Plummer of Brookline was named as one of the three township commissioners.

Lower St. Clair Township

In 1806, St. Clair Township was divided into the separate municipalities of Upper and Lower St. Clair. Within the boundaries of Lower St. Clair Township were the present-day communities of West End, Mount Washington, South Side, Beechview, Brookline, Banksville, Beltzhoover, Mount Oliver, Bon Air, Knoxville, Allentown, Carrick, Overbrook and St. Clair Village.

In the 1830s, the main population centers were along the Monongahela River, where factory production and coal mining were booming in the areas of Temperanceville, South Pittsburgh, Birmingham and East Birmingham.

These heavily populated and industrialized areas soon left the township to form their own boroughs. Another large parcel of territory was ceded in 1844, when Baldwin Township was chartered.

1850 map showing Upper and Lower St. Clair Townships
Map from 1850 showing Upper and Lower St. Clair Townships. The original St. Clair Township included
both Upper and Lower St. Clair as well as the whole of Baldwin Township and part of Snowden.
The Road from Washington is present-day West Liberty Avenue from the southern border
of Lower St. Clair to Saw Mill Run Creek. It was then known as Plummer's Run.

To the south of Coal Hill, the rolling terrain of West Liberty and the other nearby communities along Saw Mill Run were all that remained of Lower St. Clair Township.

By 1860, this terrain was still a sparsely populated farming region. In the Brookline area, the largest of these were operated by John and Elizabeth Paul, Richard Knowlson and Philip Fischer. These families lived off the land and sold their surplus crops at the markets in Pittsburgh.

The coal mining industry moved into the South Hills in the mid-1860s, leading to the first real migration of workers and families. As the region’s population and wealth increased, the emerging communities in Lower St. Clair began the process of forming separate municipalities.

William Dilworth

A notable early settler in Lower 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 in the early-1800s.
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.

Typical Pittsburgh coal miners
from the early 20th century

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 the junction of West Liberty Avenue and Warrington Avenue.

West Liberty Borough

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 Washington road.

1876 Map of West Liberty Borough
Map from 1876 showing West Liberty Borough.

While the adjacent areas of Mount Washington and the countryside along the line of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, such as the village of Fairhaven, were comparatively thickly settled, West Liberty was sparsely 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 district that covered the borough boundaries was established in June 1876. Mary Beltzhoover, who resided along West Liberty Avenue, just south of Capital Avenue, was the postmistress.

The home of George and Mary Beltzhoover.
The home of George and Mary Beltzhoover along the 1900 block of West Liberty Avenue.
This was the official Fetterman District Post Office from 1876 to 1907.

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, mining was still prevalent along the valley floors, with the remainder of Oak Hill practically all farms. It was then a common sight in the summer evenings to see a procession of market wagons on their way to the city with produce.

Map of Pittsburgh - 1876 showing West Liberty Borough.
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 Brookline.

The area which now comprises Brookline was settled prior to 1800. Many of these early settlers were veterans of the American Revolution that had served under General Washington. The soldiers were issued land grants as payment for their services to the country.

These hardy pioneers tilled the soil and developed a prosperous farming district. Boggs Grist Mill, near the northern end of Pioneer Avenue, ground their grain. Colonel Espy's Tanyards, near the southern end of Pioneer, furnished the leather for their boots, saddles and harnesses.

Real Estate Advertisement - 1905.
A 1905 Freehold Real Estate advertisement showing Brookline's proximity to Pittsburgh.

Fleming Place/Hughey Farms Real Estate Advertisements from 1902

Freehold Real Estate Advertisements from 1905-1907

Freehold Real Estate Brochures from 1924-1926

Freehold Real Estate Advertisements from 1930

Situated in Lower St. Clair Township, the area we now call Brookline became 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 developed.

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.

Kids and their donkey - 1909.
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 Kapsch
children, at home with their donkey in 1909.

Although originally intended as such, Brookline was never incorporated as a separate and distinct municipality. It was merged with the City of Pittsburgh in 1908, and 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: Brookline 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.

Map showing the growth of Brookline.

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. It was the only main roadway to reach the city from the south. It was later known as the Upper Road from Boggs Mill and also the Coal Hill and Upper St. Clair Turnpike Road.

Until the 1830s Pioneer Avenue remained an artery of major importance, connecting the old Township road (now Warrington Avenue) with the Morgantown Road (now Banksville Road). Much of present-day West Liberty Avenue (Washington Road) was considered part of this intra-state thoroughfare.

Wenzel Avenue, which originally led from Pioneer Avenue to Greentree Road, was laid out in 1832. Plummer's Run, now called West Liberty Avenue, from the Bell House to Pioneer Avenue, was laid out in 1839. Once established, Plummer's Run became the main north-south state roadway and Pioneer Avenue was reduced to its present course and length.

Since the emerging southern communities 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 near Stetson Street in March 1915
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Stetson Street in March 1915, before the roadway was widened.

When the original streetcar line was installed along West Liberty Avenue in 1902, the road was paved with Belgian block between the rails only. Off the narrow rail line the roadway was dirt. It remained as such until 1915 when it was widened and improved.

Whited Street, Edgebrook Avenue and Merrick/Breining/Glenbury Street were former Township Roads. Brookline Boulevard existed as a narrow dirt path connecting the farms east of West Liberty Avenue with these Township Roads. McNeilly Road was another established Township Road.

With the exception of the aforementioned streets, practically all other roadways in and around present-day Brookline 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 southern end of Pioneer and West Liberty Avenues, in present-day Dormont. Here, leather was supplied for boots, saddles and harnesses.

Boggs Grist Mill and Schaffner's Wagon Building and Repair Shop were situated at the northern end of Pioneer and West Liberty Avenues.

At a later date, the Pittsburgh Coal Company's power plant, operated by the Hartley and Marshall Company, was built at Wenzel Way and West Liberty Avenue. Across the road was Kerr's Blacksmith and Horseshoe Forge.

The Old Bell House near West Liberty and Saw Mill Run
The Old Bell House Tavern, near West Liberty Avenue and Warrington Avenue, in 1890.

Wilhelm's General Store, later known as J. Claude Groceries was located across from Pauline Avenue on West Liberty Avenue. The only other store was Algeo's, located further south at Washington and Bower Hill Roads.

Food, drink, and lodging were to be had at Beltzhoover's Tavern and the St. Clair Hotel, both located at the foot of Capital Avenue. Hayes Tavern stood at the southern end of Pioneer and West Liberty Avenue, and the Bell House Tavern and Hotel stood near the present-day Liberty Tunnels along 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.

Castle Shannon Incline looking towards downtown Pittsburgh.
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 lowered to the factories along Carson Street using an incline.

By 1902, the horse-drawn Charleroi streetcar line was extended along the length of West Liberty Avenue to Mount Lebanon. This single-track line passed the Brookline Junction at West Liberty and Hunter Avenue (Brookline Boulevard). 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.

South Hills Junction - 1906
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 towards Overbrook.

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.

This 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 from Pioneer Avenue in 1925.
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 suburb attracted so many people that, in February of 1907, West Liberty Borough voted for annexation into the City of Pittsburgh.

On the first Monday of January, 1908, the borough was annexed into the city as the 44th ward. Brookline and Beechview became the 19th ward in 1910, when the City of Allegheny also became a part of the growing metropolis.

A family in their horse and wagon approach
the intersection with Sussex Avenue in 1924.
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 nearby, like Berkshire, Bellaire and Chelton.

These streets were covered with either paving 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 1950s.

Berkshire Avenue - 1924
Many Brookline streets were covered in paving bricks, like Berkshire Avenue, shown here in 1923.
Other local streets were covered in larger, granite belgian blocks. Unlike todays asphalt
covered roadways, these durable bricks were installed to stand the test of time.

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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 they called "cobblestones" or "belgian block."

The answer is belgian block.

The official terminology might sound a bit strange:

Setts, or Belgian Blocks    Cobblestones
Setts, or Belgian Blocks (left) and Cobblestones (right).

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).

Construction workers cut large slabs into the
belgian blocks for the roadway at the corner of
West Liberty Avenue and Cape May in 1915.    Brookline still has several belgian block roads,
like Flatbush and Rossmore Avenues. These blocks on
Rossmore Avenue were installed back in 1925.
Workers cutting belgian block for use along West Liberty Avenue in 1915 (left) and Rossmore Avenue in 2004.
The belgian block on Rossmore Avenue was put down in 1925.

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Street Paving In Pittsburgh

Well into the 19th century, Pittsburgh roads were mostly unpaved. Early efforts at providing a durable surface on roadways included using wood blocks, round cobblestones and crushed rock. These methods were unreliable, and often deteriorated quickly.

Other, more expensive alternatives were the use of vitrified paving bricks, belgian block or sheet asphalt. As the years passed and the benefits of a smooth, reliable surface became evident, these three options became the standard for Pittsburgh streets.

As the city grew, there also arose a demand for better roads. Only a few main streets were paved with municipal funds. The cost of paving all streets, however, was well beyond the limits of the city coffers.

On April 2, 1870, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Penn Avenue Act, which assessed a tax on abutting property owners to pay for street paving. After this, the practice of paving roadways became standard in middle to upper-class neighborhoods, but was mostly rejected by the residents of working-class communities.

West Liberty Avenue looking north from the intersection
with Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue, looking north from the Brookline Junction in June 1916, covered in belgian block.

When Pittsburgh roads were paved, the cheapest method brick and belgian block. This was due to the paving bricks being forged in foundries close to the city, and the block being easily obtainable from nearby quarries.

Up until the 1930s, the granite belgian block was preferred for use on heavily traveled roadways and also on hilly streets because it provided better traction. Paving bricks were selected for mostly level street surfaces that saw moderate traffic usage. Outside the city limits, asphalt was the primary choice.

Due to the abundance of hills, Pittsburgh was well-known for its belgian block roadways. In 1916, the city ranked third in the nation with over 230 miles of block-covered streets. The top two cities were Philadelphia and New York, both with over 400 miles of roads covered in belgian block.

Berwin Avenue in red paving bricks and Beaufort
Avenue in Belgian Block. Photo taken in 2014.
Berwin Avenue is covered in red paving bricks and Beaufort Avenue in Belgian Block - April 2014.

Here in Brookline, most streets were paved in either paving bricks or belgian block. The ratio or brick to block was close to 50/50. Some streets with a mix of level and hilly stretches were paved with both brick and block. Asphalt, and later concrete, were used sparingly in Brookline until the 1940s.

Today, most streets throughout the city are covered in asphalt or concrete. Vintage brick and block roadways have diminished dramatically in number. As a testament to their durability, these old road surfaces often provide the solid base for the smooth black top.

The same can be said for the streets in Brookline. However, there are still several brick and block streets that have stood the test of time, providing motorists with a historic, and often rumbling, reminder of Pittsburgh's past.

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Where Did Brookline's Paving Bricks Come From?

During some water line repair work on Freedom Avenue, a section of red paving bricks were removed and stacked along the sidewalk. Once the utility line was back in service and the hole filled, the paving bricks would be put back in place. This was one of the main benefits of using the bricks.

The bricks that sat along the side of Freedom Avenue were stamped "C.P. Mayer Co. - Bridgeville." As it turns out, the C.P. Mayer Company provided the majority of the pavers used on Brookline streets.

C.P. Mayer Company Pavers.    C.P. Mayer Company Pavers.

The brick works was founded in 1903 by Casper Peter Mayer, a Bridgeville industrialist. The C.P. Mayer Company supplied the majority of paving bricks used for roads in the South Hills. The dense and durable pavers were so well made that, after a century, they can be removed from present-day road surfaces, cleaned and put back in place as good as new.

It is a shame that, over the years, so many of the roads paved in Mayer bricks were not well maintained and eventually paved over. If more of these road surfaces had been kept in service, the city would have much less of a burden when it comes to asphalt road resurfacing.

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 twenty-five people. One such route extended from Warrington Avenue south along West Liberty Avenue to Mount Lebanon.

Construction of the streetcar tunnel through Mount Washington began in 1903. The line through Beechview to Mount Lebanon was constructed shortly after. Regular service through the tunnel to the South Hills began on December 2, 1904.

West Liberty Ave and Brookline Blvd - 1915
West Liberty Avenue at the junction with Brookline Boulevard in 1915.

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, after 1909.

In 1910, the Brookline route 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. Five years later, in 1915, the entire West Liberty Avenue line was reconstructed.

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 growth.

Inbound 39-Brookline approaching Breining Street.
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.

The Station Square Passenger Station
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 Shore.

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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 terminology 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).

Two 39-Brookline streetcars approach Capital Avenue.
Two inbound 39-Brookline streetcars, heading north on West Liberty Avenue, approach the Capital Avenue Car Stop.

A Ride On The Brookline Trolley In The Early 1900s

This account was published by Mr. Donald Hahn, an old Brookline resident. Mr. Hahn 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 article.

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 at the
intersection with Saw Mill Run - 1915
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 behind.

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 shaft.

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 railroad tracks. When Brookline was annexed into the city, the steet name duplicated another Lang Avenue and needed to be changed. The residents decided to call the street Pioneer 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.

Brookline Boulevard, 1912
Looking up the lower end of Brookline Boulevard towards Pioneer Avenue and the home of Dr. C.C Lang.
The streetcar exited the right of way onto the boulevard near the small building to the right.

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 until 1920.

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 plant.

Further along the Boulevard we pass more vacant lots and the remnants of an another 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 on an angle, ending beside Ed Cook's house on Berkshire Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard, 1912
Brookline Boulevard in 1912, looking northeast towards Chelton 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.

In the triangle stood the frame building owned and occupied by the Freehold Real Estate Company. Between the triangle and Breining Street, Oakridge Street and Merrick Avenue was an old orchard.

Brookline Boulevard in 1911, showing the
Freehold Real Estate building in the triangle.
Brookline Boulevard in 1913, showing the Freehold Real Estate office in area where the cannon sits today.

Beyond Breining Street to the right we ran into, what was called in the olden days, Anderson's Acres farm and woods. To the left of the tracks was the Hayes farm. The original East Brookline was laid out in part from the Hayes farm.

At Breining, the conductor threw a switch and proceeded on single track to the loop, where he got out and threw another switch for the return trip back up the boulevard.

I might add that for a few years before the loop was built the streetcar line continued through the woods and past the old coal mine shafts in the valley. It passed under a railroad tressel and met up with the Charleroi line, then followed Saw Mill Run to back to town.

<Ride The 39-Brookline And See The Sights Along The Way - 1912>

The City Steps

Another tried and tested way to get from here to there in the community of Brookline is on foot. Brookline has always been a walking neighborhood. Children make their way to school every day along the broad sidewalks. Shoppers walk to and from the boulevard pick up groceries, and commuters make their daily trek to the bus or streetcar stop.

With all of the hills in Brookline there are several roadways that in places are just "Paper Streets." They are on municipal maps, but are in fact long sets of City Steps. These cement staircases vary in length from short climbs to long, mountainous ascents.

Some city steps run alongside steep roadways, like the Belle Isle Steps and the Stebbins Steps. Others are extensions of existing streets, such as the Jacob Street Steps. The Ray Avenue and Wedgemere Place Steps are somewhat unique, standing alone from beginning to end yet still carrying a distinct street designation.

Two Jacob Street Steps in 1952.
Looking down from the Brookline side of the Jacob Street Steps as two men return home from work in 1952.

Other city steps in Brookline that are extensions of actual roads are along Stetson Street, Kenilworth Avenue and Ballinger Street. At the bottom of Edgebrook is a set of steps that lead to the South Busway and Timberland Avenue. Another short set of steps connects Bodkin Street with Pioneer Avenue.

Many of these steps have been in place for over seventy years. They were constructed over time as the community grew and expanded. Although they are showing signs of age, the steps are still maintained by the city and remain popular pedestrian transit routes to this day.

With communities like Troy Hill, Mount Washington and the South Side Slopes, it may come as a surprise to some that, as of 2012, Brookline boasts the two longest sets of city steps. Ray Avenue ranks #1 with 378 steps and Jacob Street ranks #2 at 364.

Brookliners who used these long stairways during their daily commutes will always remember how easy it was to get from the top to the bottom, and how exhausting the climb could be going up in the opposite direction. They were definitely a great way to get your exercise, and will always be a memorable part of growing up in Brookline.

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Brookline City Steps In 2013

Ray Avenue

Ray Avenue Steps    Ray Avenue Steps
The Ray Avenue Steps descend from Pioneer Avenue all the way to West Liberty Avenue.
They are the longest municipal staircase in Brookline, with 378 steps in all.

Ray Avenue - 1940 map
A 1940 map showing the "paper street" Ray Avenue.

Ray Avenue Steps    Ray Avenue Steps
The Ray Avenue steps stretch from West Liberty Avenue at the bottom upwards to Woodward Avenue,
then through to Plainview, and finally to Pioneer Avenue at the crest of the hill.

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Jacob Street

Jacob Street Steps - Brookline side    Jacob Street Steps - Brookline side
Looking down the Brookline side of the Jacob Street steps in East Brookline.

Jacob Street Steps - Overbrook side    Jacob Street Steps - Overbrook side
Looking up the Overbrook side of the Jacob Street steps. The steps connect the two sections of Jacob.
Taken as one complete set of steps, the Jacob Street steps rank #2 in the city, with 364 steps in all.

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Belle Isle Avenue

Belle Isle Steps    Belle Isle Steps
Two views of one section of the long Belle Isle Steps that run from West Liberty Avenue to Plainview.

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Edgebrook To Ballinger Street and Timberland Avenue

Ballinger Street Steps    Edgebrook Steps
Steps going up from Edgebrook Avenue to Ballinger Street (left) and the South Busway and Timberland Avenue.

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Wedgemere Place

Wedgemere Place Steps    Wedgemere Place Steps
Looking at the Wedgemere Place Steps and walkway from Gallion Avenue (left) and Berwin Avenue.

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Stebbins Avenue and Bodkin Street

Stebbins Avenue Steps    Bodkin Street Steps
Looking up the Stebbins Avenue Steps from Berkshire Avenue (left) and the Bodkin Street Steps.

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Stetson Street and Kenilworth Avenue

Stebbins Avenue Steps    Bodkin Street Steps
A section of the Stetson Street Steps (left) and the Kenilworth Avenue Steps leading to Aidyl Avenue.

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In Nearby Overbrook Along Glenbury:
Pinecastle Avenue and Fan Street

Pinecastle Avenue Steps    Pinecastle Avenue Steps
The Pinecastle Avenue steps at the bottom of Glenbury Street, next to the railroad tunnel.

Fan Street Steps    Fan Street Steps
The Fan Street Steps that lead from the intersection of Seldon Street and Seldon Place down to Glenbury.

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At one time, the City of Pittsburgh had over one thousand sets of city steps dotting the urban landscape. In 1945 there were over fifteen miles of steps in service and the city employed an Inspector of Steps.

As of 2012 there were 712 of these staircases still in use. Some of the older steps that are no longer in existence were much longer, and steeper, than any encountered in Brookline.

The grand-daddy of all Pittsburgh City Steps would have to be the 1000-step, mile-long Indian Trail Steps, shown below in 1910. The legendary wooden staircase scaled the northern slope of Mount Washington from Carson Street to Duquesne Heights from 1909 to 1935.

Indian Trail Steps - 1910

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 early 1920s
Real Estate brochure from the early-1920s.

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.

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 highs.

The Great Depression caused a decline in the housing market, forcing the Freehold Real Estate Company to close their Brookline office in 1932. The company had overseen the development of the community for over a quarter of a century. The triangle where the office stood was later converted into a small park and the Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

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 Richard Knowlson.

In 1907 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 Avenue.

The Knowlson Methodist Church
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.

Resurrection 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, 1910
Resurrection Church in 1910, the year that the new church and school building was completed.

St. Mark 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 1900s.

The Church of the Advent and the
Grace Lutheran Church in 1935.
The Grace Lutheran Church (now Pittsburgh Baptist), with its conical bell tower, stands atop the hill along Pioneer
Avenue at Waddington. The large home is the Fleming estate. Ida Fleming helped form the Episcopal Advent
Church along Pioneer in 1904. The homes in the foreground of this 1935 photo are along Aidyl Avenue.

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 Elizabeth Paul.

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 employed.

Elizabeth Seton High School - 1949
The second 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. Avenue. Known as the "Little Red School House", the building was enlarged in 1906 to eight classrooms.

Soon, overcrowding at West Liberty Elementary compelled the Pittsburgh Public School Board to build Brookline Elementary School, located at Pioneer and Woodbourne Avenues. The original four-room building was dedicated on July 4, 1909. Six additional classrooms were added in 1913, followed by six more in 1920. Another wing, including nine rooms and other amenities, was constructed in 1929.

Brookline Elementary Basketball Team - 1913
The Brookline Elementary School basketball team in 1913.

In addition to the public schools, parochial school children could attend Resurrection Elementary School, which was constructed between 1909 and 1911. The school, located on Creedmoor Avenue, opened for students in the fall of 1912. Overcrowding at Resurrection led to the formation of St. Norbert's parish in Overbrook (1914) and St. Bernard's parish in Mount Lebanon (1919).

Alice M. Carmalt Elementary School was built in 1937, along Breining Street, and expanded in the 1950s. 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, both located along Pioneer Avenue.

Resurrection School eighth graders - Fall 1913
The Eighth Grade graduating class from the 1913-1914 school year at Resurrection Elementary.

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 School - 1959
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.

High Schools For Brookliners

Beginning in 1900, students graduating from West Liberty Elementary School were permitted to attend Knoxville Union High School at no charge, largely due to Professor Moore's efforts in obtaining the right of West Liberty Borough children to free public education.

Beginning in August 1917, most Brookline students attended South Hills High School, located in Mount Washington, for their secondary education. South Hills High School served local students for sixty years. In 1977, Brookline students were transferred to the newly constructed Brashear High School in Beechview.

South Hills High School - 1939
South Hills High School, shown here in 1939, served Brookline students from 1917-1977.

For a parochial secondary education, from 1912 through 1934, Resurrection Elementary also offered high school classes to parish graduates. From 1935 to 1991, girls could attend St. Francis Academy in Castle Shannon. Beginning in 1941, another alternative for the ladies was Elizabeth-Seton High School on Pioneer Avenue.

For the boys, South Hills Catholic High School, located on McNeilly Road, opened in 1960. The institution merged with St. Francis and Elizabeth-Seton after the completion of the 1979 school year to form the present-day Seton-Lasalle High School.

The Rumble Of The Railroad

Just like the steel mills and factories that lined the Three Rivers in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Pittsburgh was also synonymous with the railroad industry. Local small-guage coal railroads were active in the South Hills as early as 1861. The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad operated continuously along Saw Mill Run from 1871 to 1912.

In the city, the nation's larger railroads were one of the major industries in the city. The Pennsylvania Railroad, the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad and the B&O Railroad all had huge facilities within the Golden Triangle competing for their share of the lucrative passenger and freight business.

Another major railroad that was once a part of Pittsburgh's heritage was the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway. The Wabash was built to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad for the lucrative steel hauling business. It opened in 1904 and went bankrupt in 1908.

Part of the Wabash network was the old West Side Belt Railway line that skirted the border of Brookline, heading along Saw Mill Run valley, then following the Library Road corridor through Castle Shannon and continuing west. Although the Wabash was in receivership, this spur line was upgraded in 1909 and continued to be a profitable freight-hauling venture.

The West Side Belt Railway tracks, part of
the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway,
during a refurbishment project in 1909.    The Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad tracks
pass under the Timberland Avenue Bridge in 1918
Workers working on the West Side Belt Railway line, part of the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad,
near Timberland and Cadet Avenues in 1909 (left), and the P&WVRR tracks as they
pass under the Timberland Avenue Bridge in 1918.

In 1916 the line was purchased by the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railroad. P&WVRR locomotives passed along the outskirts of Brookline for the next forty-eight years, until the railroad was purchased by Norfolk and Southern in 1964. It was then sold to the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway in 1988 and has carried that designation ever since.

A P&WVRR train passing Elm
Street in Castle Shannon - 1940.    A P&WVRR train crossing tressel at
Whited Street in Brookline - March 1957.
Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad train at Elm Street in Castle Shannon in 1940 (left) and
crossing the tressel at Whited and Jacob Streets in Brookline, March 1957.

For over a quarter century, the W&LERR has remained a profitable local carrier. The railroad and has seen a recent upsurge in traffic with the emergence of the Marcellus Shale natural gas operations in southwestern Pennsylvania. Six to eight trains now pass through Brookline on an average day.

For those who have lived in the community of Brookline, the rumbling sound of the locomotives and the distant whistle as they pass by Brookline is something that will always remain in our conscious memories of home, especially those nearest the tracks along Timberland, Cadet, Ballinger and Jacob streets.

A W&LERR    ...
Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad trains passing over the tressel at Edgebrook Avenue in Brookline, 2014.

The sound of the passing train seems most evident at night, when all is quiet. For miles one can hear the rumbling of the engine, the screach of the rails and the frequent whistle blows echoing through the valleys. Depending upon the direction of travel, the distant rumble can be heard all the way from Greentree and Bethel Park. It gradually grows as it nears Brookline, then slowly fades away.

Heading down to the bottom of Edgebrook, Whited, Glenbury or McNeilly roads to watch the train go by is something most local residents have experienced and will remember fondly as a part of growing up here in Brookline. Many still have the smashed pennies, nickels and dimes that so often became souvenirs of the visit.


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    A Fairbanks Scale
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 homeowners.

Freedom Avenue as seen from Merrick Avenue in 1924.
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.

Home deliveries of cool were commonplace
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 as 1970.

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 mine ran the length of Brookline, from east to west. The coal was part of the Pittsburgh Coal Seam. Stretching from Pittsburgh southwest into Ohio and West Virginia, it was the largest coal deposit in the Eastern United States.

A mule pulling a cart full of coal from a mine
in the South Hills area in 1910.
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.

The inside of a mine shaft.
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.

A donkey pulls a loaded car from a pit mouth.
A donkey pulls a loaded car out of one of the pit mouths in the early-1900s.

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 mouths were large fields where the animals were brought to rest and graze in the sunlight.

The Pittsburgh Coal Company power
plant at the Brookline Junction in 1909.
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.

In 1905, the Pittsburgh Coal Company built a power station, mine ventilation shaft, holding tank and storage barn next to the Brookline Junction, at the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue. The power station was in operation for ten years.

During a widening of West Liberty Avenue in 1915, the power station and out buildings were removed and relocated to Elwyn Street. A large silo-like ventilation shaft remained at the Brookline Junction until the early-1940s.

1931 Coal Mine along Elwyn
 Street (McNeilly Road).    1937 abandoned coal mine
shaft along Edgebrook Avenue
A mine shaft along Elwyn Street/McNeilly Road in 1931 (left) and an abandoned shaft along Edgebrook in 1937.

The Oak Mine in the Brookline area was completely mined out by 1941. 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 shafts 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.

Coal Mining - 1910.   
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!

Elwyn Mine Entrance on Library Road - 2007.
This abandoned mine shaft was unearthed along Library Road during construction in 2007.

<Photos of the Uncovering/Sealing of the Elwyn Mine Shaft in 2007>

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.

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Mine Rescue Training At Brookline's Oak Mine

The September 9, 1913 edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette Times featured an article about a ten-day conference on mine rescue maneuvers held in Pittsburgh by the Bureau of Mines. The field training was held at Oak Station, the busy mining center located near the bottom of Whited Street in East Brookline. The article is reprinted below.


Delegates To 10-Day Conference Hasten
To Oak Station For Real Work


Canaries Are Part Of Equipment For Detecting
Dangerous Gases Under Ground

Mine rescue workers and first-aid men, representing the federal and state governments and private mine corporations, in conference yesterday morning at the Bureau of Mines Station, Arsenal Park, were told by Engineer James W. Paul, that a disaster had taken place at the Oak Mine, owned by the Pittsburgh Coal Company and located at Oak Station.

Trained to receive such news complacently and with reserve, the workers adjourned the session and met informally to formulate plans of action in the care of the supposed dead and injured. Later they made a hurried trip in a special car to the mine, where they found the specially-equipped rescue car of the Bureau of Mines standing on a railroad siding, and a small crew of smiling first-aid men.

It was the opening day of a 10-day mine rescue maneuver to be conducted at that mine, which was abandoned temporarily one and one-half years ago. Mining engineers and rescue workers from all the coal regions in the country east of the Mississippi River will come to the camp to participate in the elaborate demonstration of mine rescue methods.

James W. Paul, head of the rescue department, with headquarters in this city, will direct the maneuvers. He will be assisted by a corps of engineers and mine foremen from various mining districts throughout the east.

First Aid To Be Tested

Five crews, consisting of five men each, and each under the supervision of a mining engineer, will operate in the Oak Mine in day and night shifts. The work will be continuous throughout the ten days. The crews will work in two-hour shifts, and at the end of the maneuvering it is estimated the mine will be put back into condition for operation.

This work will be the beginning of a series of campaigns to be held in various parts of the country. Similar experiments will be performed in a camp at Trinidad, Colorado, the latter part of this month.

It is the aim of the authorities to establish rescue work in the mines on a definite basis of cooperation between the mine operators, the state mine inspectors, and the rescue workers. The efficiency of first-aid methods will be tested, and the apparatus in vogue will be given severe trials.

Mine Rescue Workers At Brookline's Oak Mine -  September 1913.
Helmeted miners exiting Brookline's Oak Mine after training.

It is understood that the Oak Mine contains a large quantity of black damp and gas, and the officials consider it an excellent place to perform an extensive experiment.

For rescue operations the mine operators will be required to furnish one or more trained crews, and a full set of breathing apparatus. Sufficient supplies to maintain the apparatus for a continuous period of forty-five hours will be necessary.

Canary Birds To Be Used

The government car at the Oak Mine is fully equipped with helmets, safety lamps, oxygen tanks, stretchers, pulmonators, bandages and medicines. Every man in the crew is trained to meet any emergency that might arise at a disaster.

A host of canary birds, used in testing the amount of poisonous gas in the confines of mine shafts, is an important part of the equipment. The birds are taken down into the mine in cages. When they become exhausted, the bearer of the cage knows that he may venture further into the mine safely, but he must not remain there no longer than eight or nine minutes. At that time the worker must leave the mine. The bird is placed in an air-tight oxygen box and resusitated.

It is estimated that the present rescue organizations have decreased death rolls in mining regions more than 200 men each year since their organization. It is said that a life is saved every day through the efforts of the first aid teams in the mines.

The officials of the maneuver and their subordinates will not leave the camp until the experiment is closed. A.A. Krogdahl, first aid miner, of Ironwood, Michigan, who will participate in the experiment, was awarded medals by the Red Cross and the Carnegie Hero Fund commission, before he entered the service of the Bureau of Mines, for saving the lives of fellow miners. He has since rescued men from mines, but his official position has barred him from further awards.

The men at the Oak Mine are: James W. Paul, G.H. Deike, assistant engineer, of Pittsburgh; Edwin Higgins, of Ironwood, MI, Charles Enzian, of Wilkes-Barre, PA, R.Y. Williams, of Urbana, IL, J.M. Booher, Edward Evans, of Pittsburgh, W.J. German, of Kingston, PA, G.T. Powell, of Evansville, IN, Edward Steidle of Pittsburgh, Jesse Henson, of Huntington, WV, W.W. Sullivan, of Ironwood, MI, A.A. Krogdahl, of Ironwood, MI, W.A. Raudenbush, C.O. Roberts, of Pittsburgh, A.I. Young and A.J Strane.

The September 10, 1913 edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette Times printed the following update on the maneuvers.


Maneuver Of Federal, State and Corporation
Teams Proceeds At Oak Station

Five teams consisting of federal, state and private mine corporation rescuers, first aid men and mine officials, entered the Oak Mine of the Pittsburgh Coal Company at Oak Station yesterday as the first work of a ten-day mine rescue maneuver that is being carried out in connection with the conference of mine rescue workers from various parts of the country at the Bureau of Mines in Arsenal Park. The work is under the direction of James W. Paul.

The teams entered this abandoned, dangerous and gaseous mine by three different entrances just as they would had a real disaster occurred. They were fully equipped with the apparatus for artificial breathing and everything required in their work.

They found much water in the mine and heavy "falls" from the roof, but they managed to penetrate some distance. When the men emerged from their dangerous task they were individually examined by Dr. James M. Bocher, of the Bureau of Mines. He found all of them in good condition, prescribed the diet for each, after so much artificial respiration and ordered them six hours rest, after which they entered the mine again.

There will be a meeting at the Bureau of Mines of the American Mine Safety Association, consisting of the mine rescuers and engineers and officials of private companies September 22, 23 and 24. H.M. Wilson, engineer of the local Bureau of Mines, will preside.

The September 12, 1913 edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette Times printed another short blurb on the mine rescue training.


Rescue Workers Proceed With Annual
Maneuvering At Oak Station

Mine rescue maneuvers, being conducted in the abandoned Oak Mine of the Pittsburgh Coal Company at Oak Station, by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, continued in one of the remote rooms of the mine yesterday. A fire was started in the mine in order to give the men forty-eight hours experience in fighting a mine blaze.

Among the new arrivals in connection with the maneuvering were: G.S. Rice, chief mining engineer of the Bureau of Mines, who returned yesterday from the Pacific coast; J.W. Koster, mine foreman from Illinois' fields; J.C. Roberts, district engineer of the Rocky Mountain region; R.Y. Williams, of the central states, and J.J. Rutledge, of Oklahoma.

Oak Station

Oak Station was one of the primary mining locations along the Saw Mill Run Corridor, which was dotted with operational mine shafts all the way to Bethel Park. In addition to the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad spur line that looped through the Whited Street valley, there was a also small rail hub and loading facility.

This part of the mine was opened in 1902. Most of the nearby coal was mined out by 1910. From the Oak Station pit mouth, long shafts led to the west and south, connecting to other sections of the mine, forming a vast underground labyrinth stretching out beneath the entire Brookline community, and points beyond. The Oak Mine maps that are shown below give a good glimpse of this subterranean world.

What is Blackdamp?

The Oak Mine was chosen as a test location for the mine rescue teams because of the abundance of blackdamp, an odorless and highly toxic gas. The mixture of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and water vapor forms when exposed coal begins absorbing oxygen. It is difficult to detect and can incapacitate an individual in a matter of moments. Wikipedia: Blackdamp.

Since the nearby rooms and shafts had been abandoned for over a year, pockets of the deadly gas had built up in various locations, thus making this section of the room and pillar mine an ideal environment for detection and rescue training.

A Canary In A Coal Mine..

A Miner's Best Friend

The only way to combat blackdamp and the other toxic and flammable gases that formed during the mining process was with proper ventilation. Even then, it was possible for pockets of blackdamp to form in certain areas. Because it had no odor, miners could not tell when they were encountering the gas.

Canaries where used as a warning device to detect when oxygen levels reached a low level. The birds would pass out when deprived of oxygen. A human's threshold was much higher, thus the eight to nine minute time-interval between the canary collapsing and the miners having to exit the mine.

After their perilous life and death experience, the birds were duly resusitated in an oxygen rich environment, then sent back to the pit mouth for another trip into the dark underverse. Unfortunately, many of the birds perished in the line of duty.

It's difficult to estimate the number of miners that were saved by these fearless canaries. But, it is safe to say that until more efficient detection methods were introduced, these little birds truly were a miner's best friend.

The use of canaries in the United States coal mining industry, was phased out in the late-20th century.

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Locations Of Brookline's Oak Mine Entrances
Click on image to enlarge

PCSRR spur line to Oak Mine entrance
along Timberland Avenue - 1886 map.    Present-day location of the PCSRR spur line to
the Oak Mine entrance along Timberland Avenue.
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 - 1876 map.    Present-day location of the Oak Mine entrances along
Edgebrook Avenue. Also shown is a connecting spur
line along Whited Street leading to PCSRR tracks.
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.

Oak Mine entrance along Whited Street and the
PCSRR coal hub known as Oak Station  - 1905 map.    Present-day location of the Oak Mine
entrance along Whited Street, leading to
the PCSRR coal hub known as Oak Station.
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.

Oak Mine entrance on the Milton Hayes property - 1905 map.    Present-day location of the Oak Mine PCSRR spur line
and the mine entrance in the valley behind Brookline Park.
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 House and Oak Mine
ventilation shaft at the Brookline Junction - 1905 map.    Present-day location of the Pittsburgh Coal Company
Oak Mine power station and ventilation shaft
located at the Brookline Junction.
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 rerouted.

The Paul Coal Company Oak Mine entrance
along Stetson Street - 1916 map.    Present-day location of the Paul Coal Company
Oak Mine entrance along Stetson Street.
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.

One of the Pittsburgh Coal Company Oak Mine
entrances along McNeilly Road - 1916 map.    Present-day location of the Pittsburgh Coal Company
Oak Mine entrance along McNeilly Road.
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 auto dealership.

One of the Pittsburgh Coal Company Oak Mine
entrances along McNeilly Road - 1934 map.    Present-day location of the Pittsburgh Coal Company
Oak Mine entrance along McNeilly Road.
Pittsburgh Coal Company entrances to the Oak Mine near present-day Creedmoor Avenue, shown in a 1934 map.

The South Hills Coal Company Oak Mine entrance 
and coal tipple along McNeilly Road - 1934 map.    Present-day location of the South Hills Coal Company
Oak Mine entrance and coal tipple along McNeilly Road.
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 residential heating.

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Maps Of Brookline's Oak Mine
Click on image for a larger map

1905 Drawing of proposed streetcar line.    1929 map of the Oak Mine.
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.

Below are a series of maps showing the layout of the room and pillar mines underneath Brookline. Together, the maps form a 3-by-3 grid that show the status of the Oak Mine in the late-1940s. The maps are coded with letters (A, B, AB, AC, etc) and include dated entries that detail the years that those areas were in operation.

There is an accompanying Pittsburgh Coal Company log detailing the code letters and years that correspond to the map entries, showing when specific areas were mined. The log and maps show that mining in Brookline ended in 1941. The dated codes continue through 1980, as mining operations lasted another forty years in the abundant deposits to the south.

These maps show how extensive the mining operations were underneath the community of Brookline, as well as Beechview, Dormont and Overbrook. It really does look as though Brookline is 95% undermined, supported by an aging network of rooms and pillars.

Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s   Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s   Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s

Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s   Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s   Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s

Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s   Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s   Map of the Oak Mine under Brookline - 1940s

Pittsburgh Coal Company Oak Mine Log

Interactive Overlay Map Showing Part Of Brookline's Oak Mine

The last recorded mining of the Pittsburgh Coal Seam in Brookline's traditional 19th Ward took place in the area underneath Rossmore, Gallion and Berwin Avenues in early-1936. The South Hills Coal Company, which mined the area in the 32nd Ward underneath Ebenshire Village, closed their Saw Mill Run Mine shaft, located along McNeilly Road between Creedmoor Avenue and the railroad tunnel, in 1941.

The map below is from the early 1900s and gives a bit more detail to the mining operations in the eastern section of the Oak Mine. Many of the street names still carry old West Liberty Borough designations. Some of these are Oak (Whited), Warwick (Wareman), Clifton (Clippert), Chelsea (Chelton), Putnam (Edgebrook), Glenarm (Trenton), Flatbush (Winchester), Wedgemere (West Point), Rossmore (Cromwell) and Gallion (Monitor).

Map showing the eastern portion of the Oak Mine.

The drawing below shows the property lines of James Gordon when the mining rights to his land were acquired by the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. The document is dated April 22, 1904. The pit mouth shown is located near Marloff Place. It extends into the Oak Mine and proceeds directly under present-day Brookline Memorial Park (Anderson property).

1904 drawing showing one of the western
mine shaft entrances into the Oak Mine.

Shown below is a newspaper clipping from 1902 disclosing the purchase of the mining rights to 113.059 acres of land bordering Gordon's to the south. It documents the rights of the company to mine all of the coal in the underlying area and the terms and cost for any surface damage relating to the mining operation.

1902 newspaper clipping showing purchase
of mining rights for the Oak Mine.

South Hills Coal Company on McNeilly Road - 1930    Castle Shannon Coal Company on Library Road - 1931
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 1941.

The Town Of Reflectorville

The exact year that the small town of Reflectorville came into being is not known. The hamlet was located on Oak Hill between the lower end of Whited Street and Edgebrook Avenue, along Saw Mill Run Creek. Using real estate advertisements and old maps as a reference, we can assume that it was approximately 1890.

This part of present-day Brookline was then situated in the northern tip of Baldwin Township, along the border of West Liberty Borough and Carrick Borough. To the south was the neighboring township mining settlement of Fairhaven.

Thomas Bailey And David Moon

Much of the land that comprised Reflectorville was owned and developed by Thomas Flanner Bailey and David G. Moon, the president and treasurer of Pittsburgh's highly successful Bailey Reflector Company. Their business is the origin of the town's unique name.

The Bailey Reflector Company was located in Pittsburgh, on Second Avenue, and manufactured ornamental oil, glass and kerosene silvered lighting fixtures and chandoliers that were popular in churches and commercial establishments throughout the United States. Bailey Reflectors also found a market for their products as far away as Japan.

Advertisement for Bailey Reflectors

In the 1880s, with the mining industry venturing into the region south of Pittsburgh, the two businessmen acquired a substantial land tract along the Saw Mill Run corridor with the purpose of creating a residential development in the rural South Hills suburbs.

Construction of Reflectorville began in 1890 and continued for the next thirty years. As Pittsburgh expanded through a series of annexations, the small town was eventually absorbed into the city limits.

By that time, the men who had orchestrated the birth of Reflectorville had long since passed on. David Moon died in 1906, at age seventy-three. Thomas Bailey, aged seventy-seven, followed in 1915. The Bailey Reflector Company was sold by the Bailey family in June 1916.

Housing For Mining And Railroad Families

In the 1890s, coal mining was the primary enterprise along the Saw Mill Run corridor. There were several active Oak Mine shafts in operation. On either side of Reflectorville were the mine entrances along Hughey Road (Edgebrook) and Oak Street (Whited). The Oak Street Station was one of the largest in the valley and included a small rail yard.

The vast majority of those who settled in Reflectorville were the families of the men who worked in the mines, along with a number of railroad employees.

1892 Ad for Reflectorville Housing.

On September 12, 1892, an ad was placed in the Pittsburgh Press for lots in Reflectorville. Just two and one half miles from downtown, these lots were ideally located along the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, which offered passenger service to and from the city.

The advertisements proclaimed that lots in Reflectorville had excellent drainage and unsurpassed views of the Saw Mill Run valley. They also provided a clue pointing to the year to when construction of the village began, stating that since 1890 the number of homes built had risen from eight to seventy-two.

Reflectorville In 1896

Reflectorville first appeared on plot maps in 1896. The hamlet consisted of the housing tracts known as the Bailey and Moon #1, Bailey and Moon #2, Magaw/Goff and Zimmerman Plans. Bailey and Moon also had a third small tract of homes across the border in West Liberty.

Map of Reflectorville - 1896.
An 1896 map showing the town of Reflectorville, built on Oak Hill along the Saw Mill Run corridor.

The layout of the Reflectorville streets in many ways mirrors the present-day road network. The exception was the streets along valley floor. These stood between the tracks of the West Side Belt Railroad and those of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, running respectively on the western and eastern hillsides along the broad corridor.

Where Saw Mill Run Boulevard runs today was a gridlike network of streets, including First and Second and Third Avenue, which followed the course of present-day Ballinger Street. Intersecting these roadways was the Township Road, or the Warrington Avenue Extension, which ran north towards West Liberty Avenue and Pittsburgh. To the south was the Library Road Extension that led to Fairhaven.

Oak School - 1930.
Oak Elementary School, shown here in 1930, was built in 1908. It was originally called the Reflectorville
Public School and replaced a small schoolhouse that was built in the early-1890s.

Along Third Avenue was a small school house, called the Reflectorville Public School, for the children of the miners. At the corner of Elm Street (Zimmerman) and Walnut Street (Hallowell) stood a Methodist Church. This was the forerunner of the Brookline United Methodists, who in 1907 moved to a stone chapel located at Brookline Boulevard and Wedgemere Avenue.

One can assume from the number of buildings shown that the area was served by a variety of merchants and markets that catered to the needs of the growing Reflectorville population.

Part Of Overbrook Borough

The town of Reflectorville continued to develop during the early years of the 20th Century. Nearby mining operations went on for another decade and the population more than doubled. By the time the shafts had been mined out, this tiny corner of Baldwin Township had evolved into a thriving community.

In 1908, West Liberty Borough was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh. Reflectorville was now bordered to the north and west by the emerging neighborhood of Brookline.

In 1912, there was a proposal put forth by officials from the town of Fairhaven to break away from Baldwin Township and form a new borough that would include Reflectorville, Fairhaven and Castle Shannon. The measure was put to a vote and failed due to objections from the residents of Castle Shannon, who prefered to form their own independent municipality.

While the issue of creating a new borough remained in the news for the next several years, home construction in Reflectorville continued. When the Pittsburgh Railways Company established their high-speed traction line along the P&CSRR right-of-way, the quick and reliable public transporation brought a surge of development.

Finally, in 1920, Reflectorville became the First Ward in the newly formed Borough of Overbrook, which extended from the city line at Edgebrook Avenue along the Saw Mill Run and Library Road corridors to the border of Castle Shannon.

Added To Brookline Census Tract

The most comprehensive developmental change to occur within the borders of the former town came in 1929, when Saw Mill Run Boulevard (PA State Route 51) was built. Many of the homes lying along the valley floor were razed to clear a path for the broad four-lane highway.

The following year, in 1930, the Borough of Overbrook voted for annexation into the City of Pittsburgh. The adjacent Borough of Carrick had been annexed three years earlier, in 1927. After this southward expansion, Pittsburgh City Council instituted some territorial adjustments to the borders of these new municipal wards.

The majority of Overbrook's First Ward (former Reflectorville), was added to the census tract of the Brookline community. This included all of the land east of Saw Mill Run Boulevard. The property to the west of Saw Mill Run Boulevard was assigned to the Carrick neighborhood.

A Lasting Reminder Of Reflectorville

It has been nearly a century since the small village of Reflectorville became a part of the distant past. The town's brief thirty year legacy will, however, be remembered in the naming of one of the bridges along Saw Mill Run.

The Reflectorville Viaduct was originally constructed over Edgebrook Avenue in 1872 by the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. Reflectorville Station was a stop along the line. The bridge and car stop became part of the Pittsburgh Railways transit line in 1909.

The Reflectorville Viaduct - 1929    The Reflectorville Viaduct - 1929
The Reflectorville Viaduct, across Saw Mill Run from Edgebrook Avenue, shown here in 1929.

The bridge was replaced in 1929 and remained in service until decommissioned in 1993, with Reflectorville Station as a popular stop along the way. The bridge was rebuilt once more in 2004 for the modern light-rail transit line and is still referred to as the Reflectorville Bridge. The car stop was eliminated.

Ironically, the bridge that memorializes the name Reflectorville, was always located just outside of the town's traditional borders, in the Borough of Carrick.

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Some Old Photos Showing The Reflectorville Area

Edgebrook Avenue - 1928
A 1928 photo showing homes along the lower end of Edgebrook Avenue. Beyond the bridge is Beech Street, which leads
into Reflectorville. For a fair distance after the bridge, Edgebrook formed the northern boundary of the town.
The homes to the immediate right were in Carrick Borough, and were torn down during highway construction.

Second Avenue homes - 1929    Second Avenue homes - 1929
Reflectorville homes along Second Avenue, shown in 1929, that were demolished during highway construction.

Reflectorville homes - 1929
Another row of homes, shown in 1929, that stood in the path of the highway. They were all in the Magaw/Goff plan.

Oak Street intersection with Second Avenue - 1928    Home along Oak Street in Reflectorville - 1928
Looking under the Oak Viaduct (left photo) and over the Charles Street (Colerain) bridge, in 1928, at the intersection of
Second Avenue and Oak Street in Reflectorville. This is the present-day junction of Whited Street and Saw Mill Run
Boulevard. The right photo shows a home along Oak Street located where the Jack Maggs Agency stands today.

Home along Whited Street, in Brookline, in 1934.
The Saw Mill Run Creek bridge and the Oak Street home shown above, now a Brookline residence, in 1934.

View along Route 51 into Reflectorville - 1936    View along Route 51 into Reflectorville - 1938
Two photos from the late-1930s looking past the Oak Viaduct into the former town of Reflectorville.
In 1930, all land shown to the left of Saw Mill Run Boulevard became part of Brookline.

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1905 Reflectorville Plot Map

Map of Reflectorville - 1905.

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Google Aerial Images Of Reflectorville in 2014

Aerial view of Reflectorville area - 2014.

Liberty Tunnels Benefit South Hills

The Liberty Tunnels constructed at the intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Warrington (later Saw Mill Run Boulevard), furnished 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.

The Liberty Tunnels - 1928
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.

Real Estate Advertisement - 1924

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.

Recreational Provisions

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 purpose.

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.

Brookline Elementary School - 1919
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.

An aerial view of Moore Park construction in 1939.
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 Recreation Center.

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 Center.

An aerial view of the Anderson Farm in 1939.
Eight years later the land was sold to the
community and became Brookline Memorial Park.
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 park.

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 two decades.

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 here.

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.

Fourth of July
Parade - 1920
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 Power, Ick Dooley, and Jimmy Carl.

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.

Fourth of July Parade - 1929
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.

Fourth of July Parade - 1954
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 remembered:

"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 Creedmoor. 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 in 1912
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 Dips 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 June.

The Potato Patch at Kennywood Park
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 Dipper.

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.

The Big Woods

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 territory.

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 rest.

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.

Aerial view of The Big Woods - 1939.
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 home.

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 salt.

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 1930s.
* Outstanding among the local civic and patriotic organizations is Brookline American Legion Post #540, which was chartered in May 1935.
* 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 affairs.
* 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 development projects.
* 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 Brookline.
Members of the Brookline Area Community Council in 1982 looking over
an informational pamphlet on the Community of Brookline.

The Brookline Journal

In November 1931, Gene Potter and Lloyd Greene had an idea to start a free weekly Brookline neighborhood newspaper, one that would bring the events of Brookline home to the community residents and support itself solely on advertisement revenue.

That month the two men made their way around to the Boulevard merchants and within a few days had enough contracts signed to print the inaugural edition of "The Brookline Shopper." The first merchant to sign on as an advertiser was Melman's Super Market.

The Brookline Shopper became an overnight success, a popular publication with over three thousand subscribers on the mailing list in the first year alone. It was supported by the Brookline business community and a brisk classified ads section. The original owners of the paper were Green, Jack Kennelty and Sam Selickson.

In 1942, due to the shortage of paper and increased costs caused by America's entry into World War II and the onset of rationing, the newspaper began to charge a one cent fee per copy. By 1946 that fee had risen to two cents. Mail order subscription also began in 1942, with several thousand subscribers signing on during that first year.

Brookline Journal logo - 1947

The Brookline Shopper was in print from 1931 to 1946. In 1947, the paper changed it's name to The Brookline Journal. 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.

Read a 1951 Year In Review and
browse through a collection of 1951 Brookline Journals.

Read a 1952 Year In Review and
browse through a collection of 1952 Brookline Journals.

In 1956 C. Dale Noah purchased the newspaper and set up office in the basement of Smith Realty, with a small entranceway between realty building and the Brookline Savings and Loan, now PNC Bank.

The Brookline Journal office was later relocated to the Reed Building*, across from Creedmoor Avenue and next to DeBor Funeral Home. The office remained in the Reed building for the next twenty-six years.

* The Reed Building was eventually bought by Frank DeBor and razed in favor of expanded parking for the funeral parlor.

Brookline Journal logo - 1966

Under Dale Noah's leadership the Journal grew in popularity. His catchy caption "Do You Noah?" became a memorable community phrase. The newspaper was a much anticipated Thursday delivery that captured the true essence of Brookline.

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 People".

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.

Brookline News logo

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 Rob Frank published "The Brookline News." For the next thirteen years, the community did without a print publication.

In 2008, the South Pittsburgh Development Corporation and editor Pam Grabowski began publication of "The Brookline". The newsletter covered local events and featured insightful articles about Brookline's many merchants. It also highlighted many of the activities going on throughout the community.

Over the years readership has continued to grow. The Brookline was in publication until October 2014, when Mrs. Grabowski retired as editor. Efforts are currently underway to revive the community newsletter as a quarterly publication.

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Editor's Note: In many ways the Brookline Connection website was inspired by the efforts of Mr. Noah of the Brookline Journal, and my grandfather Dan McGibbeny, who was a Post-Gazette sportswriter and frequent contributer of youth sports write-ups and other feature articles to the Journal.

Some of my favorite memories of childhood were looking through the Journal and reading the write-ups on the Brookline Little League, the Kennywood Picnic, school days and all of the other activities that were going on in Brookline. Dale Noah also had a weekly feature called "Do You Remember" where he presented a variety of vintage historical community photos.


The front page of Brookline Journals from the following dates:
May 9, 1947 - December 22, 1965 - August 6, 1970 - August 11, 1977

I can vividly remember my grandfather staying up late on Mondays, typing away at the keyboard until the wee hours of the evening to get the baseball write-ups, standings and stats completed in time to make that week's Journal deadline. He wrote his column under the name "Mas Neyrb."

Oftentimes I would help by proof reading his work. Getting to see the articles a couple days early was kind of like cheating, but it didn't dampen the excitement of seeing it all again in print every Thursday.

When this website began back in 1998, one of the main goals was to capture as much of the photographic history of the community as possible. Secondly, I have tried to carry on my grandfather's vision of publishing write-ups on the various youth sports activities in the neighborhood. The Brookline Little League and Brookline Knights Football pages are my attempt to carry on that family legacy.

Putting all of this history into one big online scrapbook, which can be shared by everyone is quite an enjoyable and enlightening experience. Thanks to all of you who visit the Brookline Connection, and special thanks to Dale Noah for providing the spark that started the fire.

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, bars, barber shops and much more. There were also two movie theatreswith bowling alleys downstairs, 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.

Brookline Savings and Trust - 1953

One of Brookline's long-serving businesses along the boulevard was the Brookline Savings and Trust Company. Founded in 1926, the bank was instrumental in the development of the community. In 1953, the bank building was enlarged and remodeled with an ultra-modern facade and interior space. The building design was far ahead of it's time, included many "green" features. The successful bank was absorbed into other regional financial institutions and today is a branch office of PNC Bank.

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.

Post Office Dedication - 1958
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.

Post-Gazette Illustration - Stacy Innerst - 2012.

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 rubber.

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.

The National Victory Speed - 35mph

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 hoarding.

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 requested merchandise.

WWII ration coupons

WWII ration coupons

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.

War Bond - 1944

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.

Brookline Elementary DefenseStamp Drive - 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.

World War II Service Flag - 1944

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 506 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 Americana.

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.

The Milk Man delivered dairy products daily.    The Milk Man delivered dairy products daily.
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.

The Milk Man delivered dairy products daily.

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 on.

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 grapes.

WWII poster for Victory Gardens

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 cool.

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.

Don and Carol Sayenga
Don and Carol Sayenga near the corner of
Berwin and Birtley Avenues in 1939.

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 Bigger Kids.

A Typical Andy Hardy Place To Live

The following remembrances were shared by Fred Proie. They're another great look back at what it was like for a child growing up in Brookline in the 1930s and 1940s.

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 cookie?"

Bisi's Market in 1936.
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 - November 1950
The Boulevard Theatre, open from 1937 to 1952, was a popular place for Sunday afternoon movies.
This photo was taken after the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950.

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 "Duck And Cover" Drills

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 firehouse.

Wartime blackout in the City of Pittsburgh.
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 protective posture.

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 Cover."

Bert The Turtle Civil Defense Pamphlet

<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 Shelters."

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 necessities.

Fall Out Shelter Sign

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.

Duck And Cover    Duck And Cover

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.

Duck And Cover

"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.

Fallout Shelter sign in front of the
Post Office on Grant Street in downtown.
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.

The American Boys Handy Book

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.

A snowball battle in front of a Berwin Avenue home in 1940.
Defenders and attackers having a snowball battle in the front yard at 2414 Berwin Avenue in 1940.
Defending the fort are brothers Norm, Bob and Art Rosfeld.

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 ammunition sleds.

* 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 immediately cease.

* 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 game.

* 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 Springs resort.

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 Street in 1965.
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 Bellaire.

Birchland Street, looking up from
Brookline Boulevard in December 2012.
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.

Mike and Doug Brendel in 1965    Morgan and Clint Burton in 1995.

Delivering The Morning Paper

For many Brookline boys and girls, their first real job was delivering newspapers for the Pittsburgh Press or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Back in the old days there was also the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph.

These were mostly grade school students who had to get up in the early hours of the morning (rain, snow, sleet or heat), pick up their bundles and get the job done quickly so they could make it to school in time. Many routes covered several streets, many with a high and low side, meaning lots of steps!

A delivery bag from the Post-Gazette.

Some walked with their delivery bag, some pulled a wagon and some rode their bikes. Then, in the evening hours they had to go around to their customers and collect payment. A large ring held cards for all the accounts, and after each payment a small stub was given as receipt.

Being assigned a route was a prestigious job, and a great way to get to know the neighbors, but it wasn't easy. No matter what the weather, the papers needed to be delivered in time and as requested in order to get good tips.

Delivering the Post-Gazette.

The following is an article by Steve Weitzenkorn about being a paperboy for the Pittsburgh Press entitled "My First Big 'Growing Up' Experience."

When I started sixth grade, I signed up to be a future paperboy for the Pittsburgh Press, the afternoon newspaper. I expected to get the route in two years when the current paperboy, David Sales, would be ready to move on to something else. David just started high school and began delivering papers that September. His parents and mine were friends.

Then tragedy struck. David had an epileptic attack in the high school swimming pool and drowned. It was a very sad day for our neighborhood. A day I’ll never forget.

The route manager for the Pittsburgh Press now had an unexpected problem. As saddened as he was about David’s death, he also had to find someone to deliver the papers. He learned of the tragedy when he was unloading the bundles of papers at David’s house. He threw them back in the truck and drove to our house. I was considered too young to be a paperboy but he had no other choice at that moment.

Without any training or time to prepare, I started my first real job on a moment’s notice. I was given seventy-six papers to deliver and a ring of receipt stubs with names and addresses. I loaded the papers into a wagon and a satchel and set out. It took me over two hours to deliver the papers, an hour longer than normal since I was figuring things out as I went. Plus I began nearly an hour late because of the circumstances.

So customers were complaining my first day on the route. “Where have you been?” “Why is the paper so late?” “The paper should have been here two hours ago!” Then when I took a minute to explain, I was even later for the next customer. In the end, customers were understanding and sympathetic.

I got better and faster at delivering the paper over the next week, which turned out to be quite rainy. Then I had to go around to each house and collect money for the prior week’s paper. Most people paid weekly. Some paid every two weeks. One paid monthly. And several were a few weeks in arrears. Collection time was also complaint and special request time.

Steve Weitzenkorn in 1962.

Mrs. Brown wanted her paper under the mat so it would not blow away, as it did earlier in the week, and did not want it folded and tossed. Mr. Spanelli’s paper the day before got wet. His house was up two flights of concrete stairs and he instructed me to make sure the paper was placed at least three feet from the edge of his porch so it would stay dry when it rained or snowed. Mrs. Jackson wanted her paper in the milk box which meant I couldn’t toss it from the curb and had to walk up several steps to her porch. Mr. Anderson wanted his paper inside his storm door and he promised me a 25 cent weekly tip if I did. In 1962, that was worth it.

Tips were how customers told me in tangible terms if I was doing a good job. Most gave me a dime and considered it generous. Christmas tips were the best. I knew how well I was doing by the money left over after I paid the route manager the “wholesale” cost of the paper.

The daily paper cost seven cents in those days. The Sunday paper was a quarter. So from most customers I was collecting 55 cents a week. I needed to collect about $50 and then pay the route manager about $34 and I made $16 plus about $7 in tips if everyone paid. The job required about fourteen hours per week, so I was earning roughly $1.65 an hour.

The best news is that I gained a lot more from the experience. I learned many things that have helped me throughout my life and career:

- I had to set priorities ... which meant I had to stop playing with friends when the paper truck showed up at 4:30.

- I had to take care of customers and honor their special requests – tips depended on it.

- I needed to have “get up and go”— that was a choice I had to make every day – rain, shine, snow or freezing temperatures.

- I learned how to increase my efficiency and quality of service.

- I learned how to handle and keep track of money. It was a tutorial in business finance on a small scale. - Most of all, I learned how to take on responsibility.

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 Pittsburgh.

Prior to annexation, Bellaire Avenue was known as Beacom and Bellaire Place was Beverly. Whited went through a series of changes, from Weston to Brocton to Knowlson to Oak. Milan was called Belmont. Merrick was known as Whited, and Oakridge as Ormond. Bodkin Street was known as Hunter Avenue, and from 1908 to 1935 as a part of Brookline Boulevard. Pioneer Avenue was known for some time as Lang Avenue, and West Liberty Avenue was Plummers Run.

Other tracts of present-day Brookline were part of Overbrook Borough and Baldwin Township and carried distinct names for those municipalities, such as Chelton Avenue once being called Chelsea and Creedmoor known as Carlton.

<View Old Brookline Street Maps>

A list of Brookline streets and their former borough and township names:

Ballinger - Third (also Sycamore and Beach), Bayridge - Sumner, Beaufort - Oxford, Bellaire Avenue - Beacom, Bellaire Place - Beverly, Bellbrook - Benkerd, Belle Isle - Boyer, Berwin - Cambridge, Birtley - Beverly, Breining - Richmond and Fairhaven Road, Brookline Boulevard - Hunter and Knowlson Avenue, Bodkin - Hunter (also Brookline Boulevard).

Cadet - Carlton, Capital - Oakwood, Castlegate - Concord, Chelton - Chelsea, Creedmoor - Carlton, Crysler - Clermont, Dunster - Denton, Eathan - Salem, Edgebrook - Putnam, Elmbank - Elmore, Fallow - Fern, Ferncliff - Crescent, Fernhill - Siebert, Fiat - Cherry, Flatbush - Winchester, Fordham - Brynmawr.

Gallion - Glendale (also Montour), Hallowell - Walnut, Hartranft - Handem, LaMarido - Stang, Leavitt - Lester, Lineal - James, Lynnbrook - Lynnwood, Mayville - Centre, Merrick - Whited, Midland - Merton (also Merrimac), Milan - Belmont, Moredale - Chestnut, Norwich - Lexington.

Oakridge - Ormond, Pioneer - Lang, Plainview - High (also Highland, Frew and Lennox), Queensboro - Marlboro, Rossmore - Cromwell, Stapleton - Sturgiss, Starkamp - Stanford, Stebbins - Sherwood, Stetson - Summerhill, Timberland - Valley.

Wedgemere - West Point, West Liberty Avenue - Plummers Run, Whited - Oak (also Weston, Brocton and Knowlson), Winterhill - Willison, Wolford - Winthrop (also Walden), Woodbourne - Bunker Hill, Woodward - Hughey (also Willoughby), Zimmerman - Elm.

Brookline, Massachusetts

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, Pennsylvania.

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 Seal of the town of Brookline, Massachusetts.

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."

1886 map showing boundaries of Knowlson Farm    Knowlson Farm boundaries imposed over 2013 map.
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 Avenue.

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 Weaver (15-servant).

- 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 1-daughter).

- 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 1900.
Richard Knowlson - circa 1900.

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 expansion.

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 designation, "Brookline."

Knowlson Avenue - 2013.
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."

A welcome sign in Brookline, Massachusetts

Brookline Maps

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 community.

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>

<Brookline Map 1876>    <Brookline Map 1886>
<Brookline Map 1896>    <Brookline Map 1905>
<Brookline Map 1910>    <Brookline Map 1916>
<Brookline Map 1926>    <Brookline Map 1934>
<Brookline Map 1997>    <Brookline Map 2003>

Map showing the 72 subdivisions in Brookline.

<Map Of The 72 Brookline Developmental Subdivisions>

<Map Showing Growth Of Brookline>

<Old Maps of Brookline's Oak Mine>

<Brookline Geodetic and Topographic Maps 1927-1955>

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>

<Google Brookline - 2014 Satellite Images>

<Brookline As Seem From Above - Fall 2014>

A 2011 satellite image of the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue.

Lost Subdivision 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 Aaron Street.

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.

Map of the Brookdale housing development - 1940.

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 Anderson property.

Pittsburgh Press article showing proposed rerouting
of Brookline Boulevard through Brookdale.

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 Brookdale home at 1644 Oakridge Street.
The home at 1644 Oakridge Street was one of four homes built on 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 monkey 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 Brookdale home at 82 Daleview Street.    Briggs Street, looking from Daleview towards Breining.
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.

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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 Farm.

Brookdale 1886.
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.

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Aerial Views Of Brookdale

Brookdale 1939.
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.

Brookdale 1957.
An aerial view of the Brookdale subplot in 1957. The Anderson Farm is now The Brookline Memorial Community Center.

Brookdale 1967.
An aerial view of the Brookdale subplot in 1967. A sixth home now stands near the intersection of Oakridge and Briggs.

Brookdale 2012 - You can still see the outline
of the street plan in the wooded greenway.
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.

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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.

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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.

Other Forgotten Subdivisions

When West Liberty Borough was formed in 1876, there was already a substantial number of homes, along with several merchant establishments located along West Liberty Avenue from Warrington Avenue south to the borough line near upper Pioneer Avenue.

In the 1890s, when the Pittsburgh Coal Company expanded their mining operations along the Saw Mill Run corridor, the population of the borough began to increase at a rapid pace. Along Saw Mill Run, several new housing developments first appeared on the maps.

The Boggs Place (Cadet, Lineal, Leavitt), Zimmerman Park (Timberland), and Bailey and Moon (Abstract) plans ran along the western hillside, running parallel to the West Side Belt Railroad tracks above Saw Mill Run Creek.

Along the lower end of West Liberty Avenue, plot maps from 1896 also show two new residential tracts, between Cape May and Pioneer. These were the C. Sauter and the Lewis/Garrigan plans. These small clusters of homes were built at the base of the hillside. At the turn of the century there were seven homes constructed in the Sauter development and five in Lewis/Garrigan.

1916 Map
A 1916 map showing the C. Sauter and the Lewis/Garrigan Housing Plans.

In 1940, the number of homes in Lewis/Garrigan had risen to six. By that time, West Liberty Avenue had evolved into more of a commercial roadway. The undeveloped plots in that plan were occupied by the Manos Baking Company, a Tile and Mantel Outlet and several smaller businesses.

As the years passed and the real estate values along West Liberty began to rise, the homes in the Sauter and Lewis/Garrigan plans were razed in favor of further commercial development. The Matthews Bronz complex now stands in place of the seven homes in the Sauter Plan. Just to the south, five businesses and the Dean Technical Institute occupy the former Lewis/Garrigan property.

Below are some photos of the homes in the long-forgotten C. Sauter and Lewis/Garrigan plans.

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C. Sauter Plan

Signpost that reads 'Sauter Place.'
A signpost along West Liberty Avenue that reads "Sauter Place."

Vallor and Talbert homes in March 1912.    Vallor and Talbert homes in October 1915.
The homes of J. Vallor and J.A. Talbert standing along West Liberty Avenue in March 1912 (left) and in October 1915.
When the street was widened to four lanes the front porches were removed to accomodate the expanded roadway.

Homes in Sauter Place, under the Pioneer Avenue hillside.
Three of the homes in the Sauter Plan, standing at the base of the Pioneer Avenue hillside.

Looking south towards Pioneer Avenue.    A view of the Sauter Place homes in 1924.
A view of the homes at the base of the hillside on Sauter Place in 1915 (left) and in 1924.

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J.L. Lewis, J.E & M.P. Garrigan's Plan

Homes just north of Brookside Avenue in March, 1915.
Looking south at the cluster of West Liberty Avenue homes just north of Brookside Avenue in March 1915.

Home near Brookside Avenue    Home near Brookside Avenue
The homes of P. Parker and T. Beal standing along West Liberty Avenue north of Brookside Avenue in 1912.

West Liberty Ave at Brookside - 1915
Looking north from the intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Brookside Avenue in 1915.

For more photos of Brookline homes and businesses that are no longer standing,
visit our page on
Lost Brookline.

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 years.

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.

After the 2010 census was taken, the population of the City of Pittsburgh and the Community of Brookline have seen a modest increase.


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 Birchland.

* 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.

Slag Dump Train in West Mifflin.
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 Pennsylvania.

<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 stores.

Brookline Elementary School Gardens - 1916
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 Boulevard merchants.
Behind the young farmers is Gallion Avenue and Beaufort Avenue heading up the hill.

* 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.

The open lot between 956 and 962 Brookline Boulevard,
showing the billboard and the drainage pipe.
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 Creedmoor 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 stands to the left on<BR>
Pioneer Avenue, shown here in 1924.
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.

A traveling Merry-Go-Round on Chelton Avenue in 1946.
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."

Boy wearing Beanie Cap.
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 miss her.

Boy wearing Beanie Cap.
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 Indian characters.

* 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.

Officer Alex Hogel ... photo sent
in by granddaughter Nancy Beatty.
Long-time Brookline Police Officer Alex Hogel.

* 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.

Decorative Brookline Christmas Tree Bulb.

* 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.

The Dairy Dan Ice Cream Truck - 2012
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 on Brookline Boulevard - 1946.
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 Trust.

* 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 efforts.

Water main break - July 7, 2007    Water main break - July 7, 2007
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.

Halloween Parade in the 80's
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 forty-odd years. In 2013, during the reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard and the adjoining sidewalks, the railing was removed and placed in storage. There were no plans for the fence to be put back. The community rallied for the historic Bakery Fence to be placed somewhere along the boulevard when construction was completed. Finally, in the Fall of 2014, portions of the fence were put up along the railing in front of the Brookline Dance Studio, who now occupies the former Kuntz Bakery building.

The Bakery Fence that once stood
 in front of Kuntz Bakery - 2013.    The Bakery Fence now stands again in front
of the Brookline Dance Studio - 2014.
The Baker's Railing that stood outside the building at 972 Brookline Boulevard for over seventy years was taken
down in 2013. Parts of the historic fence were put back along the new railing a year later.

* 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 costumes.

Halloween Parade in the 80's
The Brookline Halloween Parade (mid-1980s). The parade is an annual October tradition.

Fast-Food Restaurants

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.

Wendys on West Liberty Avenue    McDonalds on West Liberty Avenue.
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!

Urban Legends:
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.

2070 Pioneer Avenue    Religious symbols that appeared on
a closet door at 2070 Pioneer.

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 Whited Street and Ballinger.
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.

Raymond Robinson, known as Charlie No Face,
or the Green Man, and teenage curiosity seekers.
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 him.

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 in South Park Township
is known as the Green Man's Tunnel.
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.

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