West Liberty Avenue Reconstruction
(March 1915 - June 1916)

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue, at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard (left) and Wenzel Avenue (right), in June 1916.
The roadway proceeds south to the city line at the border with Dormont, located near Pioneer Avenue.


The sequence of photos below shows the construction project as it proceeded in stages.

Introduction    March 1915    April 1915    May 1915    July 1915
August 1915    October 1915    December 1915    June 1916

<Compare with West Liberty Avenue in 1912>

Click on images for larger pictures


Creating A Modern Thoroughfare In The South Hills

West Liberty Avenue, which runs along Plummers Run Creek, was first laid out in 1839. The roadway extended from the Bell House Tavern at Warrington Avenue, present-day Saw Mill Run Boulevard, ran southward to the intersection with Potomac Avenue in Dormont. The roadway was eventually extended to Mount Lebanon and on to Washington, Pennsylvania.

Rail lines were installed in the early 1900s to service the growing communities of West Liberty Borough, mostly present-day Brookline and Beechview. The city line near the southern end of Pioneer Avenue was established in 1908 with the annexation of West Liberty Borough.

As the population in the South Hills communities began to boom, West Liberty Avenue was soon in need of drastic infrastructure improvements, including the modernization of the road surface and trolley line. The renovation process, which began with some sewer improvements in 1910, was an ongoing initiative which reached its zenith in 1915.

The primary contractor was Booth and Flinn, who would later work on the Liberty Tunnels. Engineers encountered many challenges as the project evolved. Several residential homes and businesses were located along the construction route. Some had to be moved from the construction path and access had to be maintained.

Pittsburgh Railways streetcar service, which was the main mode of transportation for most residents, could not be disrupted. Pedestian traffic and horse-drawn wagon traffic also had to be able to navigate through the construction zone.

View from Capital Avenue looking south
showing two 39Brookline trolley cars
heading north towards downtown Pittsburgh.
Two inbound 39-Brookline streetcars pass through the construction zone approaching Capital Avenue.

Building materials were transported by train to a staging area located at the northern end of Pioneer Avenue. These supplies were then hauled by wagon or small-guage rail car to the proper work location.

Storm and sewer lines were trenched and installed along the length of the roadway from the city line to Warrington Avenue. Plummers Run Creek was channeled into underground culverts.

The roadway was widened from two lanes to six (including the two parking lanes). Utility poles were relocated and new lighting installed. The roadway was widened to four lanes and completely paved in belgian block. The entire stretch of the rail line was reconstructed.

Sidewalks and other amenities completed the dramatic transformation. The massive modernization and reconstruction project was completed in December 1915. It was a major civic and transportation improvement for South Hills residents.

When completed, the roadway's appearance been radically altered. What once resembled a rural main street was now a modern urban thoroughfare, one that would lead to the largest building boom in the city of Pittsburgh.

West Liberty Avenue was now the major artery connecting the bustling city with the South Hills and beyond. It was ready for the advent of motorized transportation.

Looking back, the laborers who built West Liberty Avenue did so with such skill that much of the roadway remained in use without change for nearly seventy years. The Belgian blocks and trolley tracks were left in place until 2011, forming the base of the asphalt roadway.


March 1915

The West Liberty reconstruction project began with the installation of modern storm and sewer lines. A trench was dug all the way from the Pittsburgh/Dormont border near Pioneer Avenue north to Warrington Avenue.

Tradesmen followed along to construct the brick and concrete base of the sewer. Many property owners ceded much of their front yards for these upgrades. Other buildings had to be moved. One home that stood in the path of the sewer was located along Warrington Avenue. It was placed on stilts and moved fifty feet to the right.

At city line looking north.  Near Stapleton Avenue looking north.
From the City Line at the border with Dormont (left) and near Stapleton Avenue (right) looking north.

Approaching the intersection with Brookline
Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue looking north.  At Saranac Avenue (left) looking north.
Approaching the intersection with Brookline Boulevard (left) and from Saranac Avenue (right) looking north.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue in March 1915.
The narrow dirt roadway was paved only along the trolley line, which doubled as a pedestrian walkway.

At Belle Isle Avenue looking north.  Approaching Pauline Avenue looking north.
At Belle Isle Avenue (left) and approaching Pauline Avenue (right) looking north.

At Ray Avenue looking north.
At Ray Avenue looking north towards the bend that leads to Curran Hill and Capital Avenues.

Past Ray Avenue looking north.  Aproaching Curran Hill Avenue and
Capital Avenue looking north.
Beyond Ray Avenue looking north (left) and approaching the intersection of Curran Hill and Capital Avenues (right).

Approaching Stetson Street looking north.  Between Stetson Street and
Cape May Avenue looking north.
Approaching Stetson Street (left) looking north and between Stetson and Cape May Avenue (right) looking south.

Approaching Cape May Avenue looking north.  Approaching Brookside Avenue looking north.
Approaching Cape May Avenue (left) and Brookside Avenue (right) looking north.

Looking from Pioneer Avenue to the south.  At the intersection of Warrington and West Liberty
Avenues looking south towards Pioneer Avenue.
Looking south towards Brookside Avenue (left) and looking south from near the Pioneer Avenue intersection.

Looking north from the Pioneer Avenue intersection.  At the intersection of Warrington and West Liberty
Avenues looking south towards Pioneer Avenue.
Looking north at Pioneer Avenue (left) and looking south from the corner of West Liberty and Warrington Avenues.

The home at the corner of West Liberty and
Warrington that stood in the construction path.  Approaching Brookside Avenue looking north.
The front and rear of the home at West Liberty and Warrington that stood in the construction path.


April 1915

The photos below show the trenching of the sewer line that ran the length of West Liberty Avenue. Large Marion steam shovels dug the trench and skilled craftsmen built the line. The home at the corner of Warrington Avenue that stood in the construction path is shown on the blocks and later in it's new location next to the Green and Evans lumber yard.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Saranac Avenue just north of Brookline Boulevard.
The intersection of Brookline West Liberty Avenue and Saranac Avenue in April 1915 looking north.

Sewer line trenching at Saranac Avenue looking south.  Sewer line trenching near Cape May Avenue looking south.
Sewer line work near Saranac Avenue (left), and at Brookside Avenue, both looking south.

Sewer line trench near Brookside Avenue looking south.  New sewer line base near Brookside Avenue looking southth.
Sewer line north of Brookside Avenue. The work went quickly.

Sewer work south of Brookside Avenue.  Sewer line trench near Brookside Avenue looking north.
Sewer line work near Brookside Avenue, looking south (left) and north.

Sewer work north of Pioneer
Avenue approaching Warrington.  Sewer work north of Pioneer
Avenue approaching Warrington.
Sewer line work north of the intersection with Pioneer Avenue, approaching Warrington Avenue. The home that stands in line with the trench caused a delay until arrangements were made to lift and move the home out of the construction path.

This home was lifted and moved
out of the construction path.  Sewer line north of Pioneer Avenue looking south.
Left - The home was moved to a secure place. Right - View from near Pioneer Avenue looking south.

Sewer line work at Warrington Avenue intersection.  Sewer line work at Warrington Avenue intersection.
Once the home was moved construction proceeded to the corner of West Liberty and Warrington Avenues.


May 1915

The photos below show the progress of the installation of 10' by 6' sewer line at the northern end of West Liberty Avenue, near the intersection with Pioneer, and near Warrington Avenue. It was back-breaking work to build the monstrous concrete, brick-lined sewer.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
The intersection of Brookline Boulevard, West Liberty Avenue and Wenzel Avenue in May 1915. This photo was taken
from the grounds of the Kerr estate, which ran along the lower left side Wenzel Avenue for many years.

Sewer work south of Pioneer Avenue intersection.  Sewer line near Pioneer Avenue.
Sewer line work near the intersection with Pioneer Avenue.

Sewer line near Pioneer Avenue looking north.  10' by 6' sewer line near intersection with Saw Mill Run
Sewer line near Pioneer Avenue (left) and the 10' by 6' line near the northern end of West Liberty Avenue.

West Liberty at the intersection
with Warrington Avenue.
The intersection of West Liberty and Warrington Avenues, showing the home that was moved away from the sewer path.


July 1915

By July of 1915, new sewer lines had been installed on the southern and northern end of West Liberty Avenue. New trolley lines were being put in place and the expanded roadway was being leveled and prepared for paving.

The new support for the West Side Belt railroad trestle was completed and soon the old steel support girders could be removed to facilitate the widening of the road.

Four months into the project, work was now beginning on the installation of the new utility lines in the center of the project zone, near Capital Avenue.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue in July 1915.
Sewer line work is complete, the new trolley lines are in place and road paving has begun.

Trenching for sewer line near Stetson Street.  Trenching for sewer line near Stetson Street.
Trenching for the new sewer line near Stetson Street.

Marion Steam Shovel.  Sewer trench north of Cape May Avenue.
A Marion Steam Shovel and the resulting sewer trench north of Cape May Avenue.

Sewer construction north of Cape May Avenue.  Staging area at Pioneer Avenue along the railroad line.
Sewer construction north of Cape May Avenue (left) and the project staging area at Pioneer Avenue.
Materials were brought by rail, unloaded and transported were needed.

A new railroad abutment was constructed at
Pioneer Avenue so the roadway could be widened.
A new railroad abutment was constructed at Pioneer Avenue so to support the
widening of West Liberty Avenue. The existing abutment blocked the path.

Looking north from near Pioneer Avenue.  Looking south from near Warrington Avenue.
View from near Pioneer Avenue (left) looking north and from Warrington Avenue (right) looking south.

The end of the sewer line.
Sewer and storm runoff emptied into Saw Mill Run Creek and flowed west to the Ohio River.


August 1915

By August 1915, the southern portion of the West Liberty Avenue reconstruction was nearing completion. The project was not as far along near Capital Avenue and sections further north. Much work remained to be completed.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue in August 1915
showing the progress of the construction project on this southern section of the roadway.

At city line looking north.  Near Stapleton Avenue looking north.
From the City Line at the border with Dormont (left) and near Stapleton Avenue (right) looking north.

Past Brookline Boulevard looking north.  At Saranac Avenue looking north.
Beyond Brookline Boulevard (left) and at Saranac Avenue (right) looking north.

Approaching Belle Isle Avenue looking north.  Approaching Pauline Avenue looking north.
Approaching Belle Isle Avenue (left) and Pauline Avenue (right) looking north.

Approaching Ray Avenue (right) looking north.  Approaching Capital Avenue and
Curran Hill Avenue looking north.
Approaching Ray Avenue (left) and the intersection with Curran Hill and Capital Avenues (right) looking north.

View of sewer line trench
near Capital Avenue looking north.  Looking south from near Capital Avenue.
Sewer trench between Ray Avenue and Capital Avenue looking north (left) and south (right).

Two 39-Brookline streetcars approach Capital Avenue.
View from Capital Avenue looking south showing two 39-Brookline trolley cars heading north towards downtown Pittsburgh.

View of sewer line trench between
Ray Avenue and Capital Avenue looking south.  View of sewer line trench between
Ray Avenue and Capital Avenue looking south.
Sewer line trench near Ray Avenue looking south.

Approaching Capital Avenue and
Curran Hill Avenue looking north.  Approaching Capital Avenue and
Curran Hill Avenue looking north.
Approaching Curran Hill Avenue and Capital Avenue looking north.

At Stetson Street looking north.  Sewer trench near Stetson Street looking north.
Sewer trench near Stetson Street looking north.

Looking north from Cape May Avenue.  Looking north from Cape May Avenue.
The sewer trench near Cape May Avenue, looking north.

Looking north from Brookside Avenue.  Looking south from Pioneer Avenue.
Looking north from Brookside Avenue (left) and looking south from Pioneer Avenue (right).

Looking south from intersection with Pioneer Avenue  Looking north from Warrington Avenue.
Looking towards the intersection with Pioneer Avenue from the south (left) and north (right).


October 1915

By October 1915 much progress had been made from Capital Avenue north to Warrington Avenue. The upgraded trolley tracks were being laid along this section and the roadway being prepared for paving.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection
with Ray Avenue looking towards Capital.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Ray Avenue looking north towards the intersection with Capital Avenue.

Approaching Ray Avenue looking north.  From Stetson Street looking north.
Approaching Ray Avenue (right) and from Stetson Street (right) looking north.

Looking north from Cape May Avenue.  Looking north from Brookside Avenue
View from Cape May Avenue (left) and Brookside Avenue (right) looking north.

Looking south from Pioneer Avenue  Approaching Pioneer Avenue from the south.
Looking towards the intersection with Pioneer Avenue from the south (left) and north (right).

Approaching Pioneer Avenue from the north.
Looking towards Pioneer Avenue from the intersection of West Liberty and Warrington Avenues.


December 1915

By December 1915 the project was at or near completion. After the belgian block roadway was completed, it was covered in sand, dirt and ground aggregate. This mixture was then packed down by the constant flow of vehicles. Eventually it would either seep down between the bricks or be washed away by the rain. Once between the bricks it formed a mortar-like quality that held the stones in place.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue near the intersection with Wenzel Avenue (left) and Brookline Boulevard (right) in December 1915.

Approaching Saranac Avenue looking north.  Approaching Belle Isle Avenue looking north.
Approaching Saranac Avenue (left) and Belle Isle Avenue (right) looking north.

Approaching Pauline Avenue looking north.  Approaching Ray Avenue looking north.
Approaching Pauline Avenue (left) and Ray Avenue (right) looking north.

From Ray Avenue looking north
towards Capital Avenue.
Looking north from Ray Avenue towards the intersection with Curran Hill and Capital Avenues.

Approaching Curran Hill Avenue
and Capital Avenue looking north.  At Stetson Street looking north.
Approaching Curran Hill and Capital Avenues (left) and at Stetson Street (right) looking north.

At Cape May Avenue looking north.  At Brookside Avenue looking north.
At Cape May Avenue (left) and Brookside Avenue (right) looking north.

Looking south from Pioneer Avenue.
Looking south from the Pioneer Avenue intersection.

Looking north from the Pioneer Avenue intersection.  At the intersection of Warrington and West Liberty
Avenues looking south towards Pioneer Avenue.
Looking north towards Pioneer Avenue (left) and looking south from the corner of West Liberty and Warrington Avenues.


June 1916

By June of 1916 the West Liberty Avenue reconstruction project was complete. The discomfort and disruption to the homeowners, merchants, travelers and transit riders were over. Life could get back to normal.

This major improvement in both civic and transportation infrastructure had a major influence on the growth and development of the City of Pittsburgh and the suburban communities of the South Hills area.

Considering the poor condition of the roadway when the project began back in March 1915, West Liberty Avenue must have seemed like a modern marvel to the wide-eyed residents of Brookline and the South Hills.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with
Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue.
West Liberty Avenue at the intersection with Brookline Boulevard (left) and Wenzel Avenue (right) in June 1916.
The roadway proceeds south to the city line and border with Dormont, located at Pioneer Avenue.

At city line looking north  Near Stapleton Avenue looking north.
From the City Line (left) and from near Stapleton Avenue (right) looking north.

From Brookline Boulevard looking north.  At Saranac Avenue looking north.
From Brookline Boulevard (left) and at Saranac Avenue (right) looking north.

Approaching Pauline Avenue looking north.
Approaching Pauline Avenue looking north.

Approaching Ray Avenue looking north.  From Ray Avenue looking north
towards Capital Avenue.
Approaching Ray Avenue (left) and the intersection with Ray Avenue (right) looking north.

Approaching Curran Hill Avenue
and Capital Avenue looking north.  From Stetson Street looking north
towards Brookside Avenue.
Approaching Curran Hill and Capital Avenues (left) and from Stetson Street (right) looking north.

At Cape May Avenue looking north.  At Brookside Avenue looking north.
Looking north from Cape May Avenue (left) and Brookside Avenue (right).

Approaching Curran Hill Avenue
and Capital Avenue looking north.  From Stetson Street looking north
towards Brookside Avenue.
Looking south from Pioneer Avenue (left) and from the intersection of West Liberty and Warrington Avenues.

<Building Brookline> <> <Brookline History>