Brookline is located in the South Hills
section (4th City Council District, 19th and 32nd Ward) of the City of Pittsburgh.
As of 2018, Brookline ranked as Pittsburgh's third most populous neighborhood
behind Squirrel Hill South and Shadyside. Throughout its history, the area has
retained a certain character and charm that has enriched its residents while
creating a heritage spanning over two centuries, dating back to the days when
taxes were paid to the King of England.
The first settlers in the region were
frontier traders, craftsmen, farmers and miners that worked with the Native
Americans and the French, then British, garrisons stationed in the neighboring
outposts. In the colonial days, this region was considered wild country,
inhabited only by the heartiest of settlers and the soldiers that protected
The borough of Pittsburgh was chartered
in 1759. Native American resentment of the invaders from the east eventually led
to open hostilities. During Pontiac's Uprising in 1763, many of the earliest settlers either perished or
sought refuge in Fort Pitt, which was under siege for ten weeks. Afterwards,
the fort was used as a staging area for military campaigns in the Ohio
After the American Revolution, freedom
brought rapid expansion. Land grants were issued to veterans of the War of
Independence. Many of those who settled in the South Hills area were former
members of the Pennsylvania Militia. Pittsburgh was incorporated as a city in
1816, along with a number of nearby boroughs, townships and villages
which formed around the same time.
Known as the "Gateway to the West,"
Pittsburgh became a vital port-of-call for the multitude of adventurers seeking
passage to the vast western territories that would become part of the United States
of America. Industry and commerce flourished.
In the mid-1800s, Richard and Harriette
Knowlson, along with children Thomas, Elizabeth and John, settled in the
southwestern portion of what would later become Brookline. The Knowlsons
had family ties in the Brookline, Massachusetts area. Richard had spent several years there
after migrating from England.
The terrain south of Coal Hill (Mount Washington) was part of Lower St. Clair Township known as West Liberty. This
was prime farmland for much of the 19th century. West Liberty agriculture helped
feed the growing population of the city.
Due to the abundance of small streams
and the rolling hills, a landscape similar to the New England town, Richard
Knowlson often referred to the land surrounding his farm as Brookline. Over
the years, the title caught on, and at the turn of the 20th century, when
development came to the region, the city designated this part of the South
The 1870s saw the arrival of the
expanding coal industry. The Pittsburgh Coal Company soon had active mines
in operation all along the valley floors of West Liberty. Other companies,
like the South Hills Coal Company, remained until the early 1940s.
Brookline Boulevard, looking from Stebbins
Avenue towards Glenarm. Color art by Doug Brendel.
The 20th century saw the advent of the
automobile, and the addition of electrified trolley service in 1904 led to the
rapid residential development of the South Hills, including the Brookline community,
then referred to as West Liberty Borough. The sale of ten farms to developers on March 12, 1905 marked the birth of Brookline. Annexed into the city of Pittsburgh in 1908 Brookline grew unabated
throughout the 1920s, as did the entire South Hills area.
Brookline Boulevard, the community's main
artery and home of the commercial district, was the central hub around which the
neighborhood grew. It was similar to today's suburban malls, where most of the
community's needs could be satisfied.
There were food stores, hardware stores,
doctor's offices, soda shops, shoe stores, repair stores, dance halls, night clubs,
a bowling alley and two movie theatres. For those who needed to travel, the public
transportation network could get a person anywhere in the city.
The post-war years saw another spurt
in the growth of Brookline. The country was growing rapidly
and Pittsburgh's steel mills fed that growth. During Pittsburgh's Renaissance I in the 1950s, when the
area of the Lower Hill District was demolished, many displaced city residents migrated
to the area around lower Pioneer Avenue, spurring the last big population surge.
Brookline's census numbers eventually peaked at nearly 30,000 residents in the
Painting by local artist Dino Guarino
depicting a 1960s Brookline Boulevard scene.
The mid-1970s were a time of change for
the city of Pittsburgh and the community of Brookline. The decline of the steel
industry and the resulting loss in jobs caused the population to decrease for
the first time since the Great Depression. In addition, the rise in popularity
of the suburban mall brought many adjustments to the business community. Vacant
homes and empty storefronts threatened to undermine the spirit of many
Through the efforts of many concerned
Brookliners, and with the help of the city and local community groups, Brookline
survived the hard times and grew stronger as a result. By the dawn of the 21st
century. Brookline Boulevard had come back to life, and the bonds that tie the
community together as neighbors had never been stronger.
The Brookline photo history book entitled
"Images of America - Brookline" is still available for purchase at Kribel's
Bakery or online at Amazon.com. The compilation, released in May 2005, is
an excellent publication, packed with interesting and revealing photos, with
explanations detailing much of Brookline's heritage. This book is a must for
anyone interested in the history of our community.
The community of Brookline marked
the 100th anniversary of its annexation into the city of Pittsburgh, our
neighborhood centennial, on January 6, 2008.
It was a time for the older
generation to look back with pride at a century filled with fond memories of
family, friends and the growth of their hometown. It was also a moment for
the younger generation, the future of our community, to look forward with fresh
minds and new ideas to guide our neighborhood through the challenges of the next
Brookline was, is, and always will be a
special place for Brookliners everywhere. The community motto, "Character, Charm,
Convenience" defines the spirit that binds us. This website is dedicated to the history
of our proud community. We hope you enjoy this look back in time.
One last note about the history of
Brookline, and for that matter most of the city of Pittsburgh. This area has
been extensively mined,
for so long that the State of Pennsylvania can't say for sure where all the mines
The rich Pittsburgh Coal Seam ran right under the Brookline area and, if you
make your home here, there is a 95% chance that your property has been undermined.
For all Brookline property owners, we offer three important words, Mine Subsidence Insurance. It is offered by the State of Pennsylvania and
is affordably priced.