The United Presbyterian Church, on
Brookline Boulevard, was originally built in 1912, and expanded in 1924 and
1953. The mission celebrated it's 110th Anniversary in 2010. The church,
located at the intersection of Brookline Boulevard, Queensboro and Chelton
celebrates it's 100th anniversary on Brookline in 2013. Although the
Presbyterian mission disbanded in 2018, the magnificent structure, now the
home of the Tree Of Life Open Bible Church, is one of the most iconic
buildings along Brookline Boulevard.
FORMATION OF THE
The Brookline Presbyterian Mission
dated back to December 9, 1900, when Mr. C.F. Mulholland, a resident of
the Bell House on Warrington Avenue, West Liberty, suggested to his pastor,
Rev. Robert H. Hood of the Mount Washington Church, that a Mission Sabbath
House be organized to provide Christian instruction for the neighborhood
children. Thirty-five young persons responded and a Sabbath School was
started with Mr. Mulholland as Superintendant.
The first building used by the
Mission was an old blacksmith shop, owned by Peter Schaffner, located near
the south entrance to the yet unheard of Liberty Tunnels. A small chapel
was built nearby in 1902, and formally dedicated by Rev. Hood on June 11,
1903. Due to the rapid growth of the area, the Mission was forced to
relocate to the West Liberty Public School, on Pioneer Avenue, in
THE WEST LIBERTY
UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
A formal congregation was established
a few weeks later. Services were held in the West Liberty Public School
building until May 17, 1908, when the "Knowlson Methodist Church", at the
corner of West Liberty Avenue and Brookline Boulevard, was purchased for
$2000 and renovated. At this time the Mission was known as the West Liberty
United Presbyterian Church.
The West Liberty United Presbyterian
Church building in 1908.
Due to the unfavorable location of the
new church, the growth of the congregation was impeded. In 1911, the Mission
took steps to find a new place to worship. A central location was soon agreed
upon, and it was decided that a new church would be built along Brookline
Boulevard, at the intersection with Queensboro Avenue and Chelton
The former West Liberty United
Presbyterian Church, located above the intersection
of Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue, shown here in
THE OLD STONE
Two vacant lots were purchased for
$4050. The church building at the Brookline Junction continued to be used
for services while the new church was constructed. It would be a small stone
structure that would serve the Mission until a larger church building could
In May 1912, the congregation voted to
change the name to the Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church and on
June 8, 1912 the change became official. Also in June 1912, an additional
adjacent lot was purchased for $3500.
The original Stone Chapel,
constructed in 1912-1913.
The original cornerstone was laid
on September 29, 1912. Services began with an invocation by Rev. J.W. Harris,
pastor of the the Thirteenth United Presbyterian Church, followed by an
address by Rev. R.H. Hood, the pastor. The scripture was read by Rev. J.T.
Steffy, of the Brookline Methodist Episcopal Church. Addresses were made by
Rev. E.C. McCowen, pastor of the Mount Lebanon United Presbyterian Church and
Rev. James Willard Hood, pastor of the West Liberty United Presbyterian
Church. The building would be made of Beaver County stone and cost
The new building was dedicated by new
pastor James Willard Hood on February 13, 1913. The Old Chapel stood alone for
eleven years, until such time when the increasing growth of the Mission
called for an expanded sanctuary.
On June 18, 1915, the Ladie's Aid and
Missionary Society of the church held its annual Brookline Lawn Fete. The
weekend garden celebration included music and servings of ice cream,
strawberries, coffee, cake, candy and sandwiches.
In 1922, the congregation called
upon Reverend John J. McIlvane as their new pastor. Through his leadership
the congregation continued to grow and he was tasked to oversee the
construction of a church expansion.
In August 4, 1924, a ceremony was
held for the laying of the cornerstone for a large church addition, known
as the New Sanctuary. The stunning addition was built next to the Old Chapel,
which was incorporated into the new structure. The Old Chapel became the
Community and Child Education Room.
The new Brookline Boulevard United
Presbyterian Church in March 1924.
The facade of the enlarged church
featured three prominent red doors at the top of a stone stairway. The
auditorium, with a capacity of 500, also had a custom-built Moller
organ. There was also a lower floor suitable for organization work and
social functions. The church was now positioned for future growth in a
community whose population was growing at a rapid pace.
The purchase of the organ
was accomplished with proceeds from a series of concerts held under the
direction of Anthony M. Jones. A varied program of solo, duet, and quartet
numbers were arranged. The quartet was composed of Mrs. Henry Schoenefeldt,
soprano, Mrs. John J. McIlvaine, contralto, W.F. Brooks, tenor, and John M.
Mrs. Henry Schoenefeldt.
The new church was dedicated during
a week-long celebration beginning on March 26, 1925. The festivities began
with an organ recital by John A. Bell and soloist Anthony Jones. The official
sanctuary dedication was held the following evening by Reverend McIlvane,
with Dr. J.H. Kistler, of the board of church extension, and Dr. L. D. Logan,
of the board of home missions, as speakers. A fellowship night, consecration
service and formal reception rounded out the week's activities.
The newly expanded
Brookline United Presbyterian Church in 1924.
For the next twenty-nine years the New
Sanctuary and Old Chapel served the continually enlarging Mission. Reverend
McIlvane left in 1929 and was replaced by Reverend Raymond Copeland, who
served until 1948. Reverend W.J.H. McKnight then served for two years until,
in 1951, Reverend Stillman Alan Foster took over the pastorship. By then, a
further expansion was needed to accomodate the growing educational needs of
the Mission's youth.
Artist's Conception of the United
Presbyterian Church and the new Educational Wing in 1952.
In 1953, at a total cost of $175,000,
construction began on the new Christian Education Wing. The cornerstone was
dedicated and installed by Reverend Stillman Alan Foster. The new wing was
the final building addition to the church.
For fifty years after the opening
of the Education Wing the Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church
thrived. The high point for the congregation was the early 1970s, coinciding
with the peak population in the Brookline community.
The Brownie Troop from the United
Presbyterian Church in 1957. Some members of the troop were Susan Schmidt
Denise Jamise, Karen Hensler, Maureen McMillan, Karen Hoff, Lynn Domastoy,
Gwen Haddad, Linda Pendercroft,
Jill Jamise, Gwen, Kitty and Doris Anderson. The troop leader was Mrs.
During this time the Mission thrived.
Among the many services provided at the church was the Brookline Christian
Food Pantry, Scouting for boys and girls, Clothing Recycling Service and a
In September, 1982, the church
celebrated it's 75th Anniversary with a weeklong schedule of activities.
Some of the featured events were three nightly sessions with Rev. Dr.
Ernest J. Lewis, former pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and
addresses by Rev. George Howard, church pastor in the 1960s. Reverent
Jack Hall Dawson, current pastor, kicked off the celebration on the
19th with his sermon "God's Servants Will Arise and Build."
While the church continued into
the 1980s, the population in the community began to decline, and Mission
membership began to suffer. Despite the decline, the Mission continued
with its Christian Education programs and many community-oriented
activities. Upgrades to the church included the addition of a handicapped
ramp, installed in the 1980s and some foundation work in the
At the dawn of the new millenium,
church membership was in a steep decline and it was becoming increasingly
difficult to find the funding to maintain such a large church building.
All efforts were made to keep the Mission on stable financial footing,
but eventually the burden became too great.
The Brookline Boulevard United
Presbyterian Church in March 2013.
Images of the United Presbyterian Church
in 2013. The image on the left shows parts of all three churches.
The picture on the right shows a section of the New Sanctuary and the
Old Chapel along Chelton Avenue.
In 2016 the church building was
sold to the Tree of Life Open Bible Church, a new and energetic
non-denominational Christian organization. The new owners took on all
responsibilities for building maintenance. Meanwhile, the Presbyterian
Mission continued under a rental agreement.
Finally, on September 13, 2018,
Pastor Marsha Sebastian announced publicly that the Brookline Boulevard
United Presbyterian Church would be celebrating its final worship service
on September 23. At the time there was only thirty active parishioners left
in the congregation. It was the final chapter in the 118 year history of
Reverend Robert H. Hood (1900-1913)
Reverend J. W. Hood (1913-1921)
Reverend J. J. McIlvaine (1922-1929)
Reverend Raymond F. Copeland (1929-1948)
Reverend W. J. H. McKnight (1949-1950)
Reverend Stillman Alan Foster (1951-1959)
Reverend George Howard (1960-1969)
Reverend George Reynolds (1970-1971)
Reverend Jack Hall Dawson (1972-1982)
Others that served include Reverend Clyde H. Goff (1990-1991).
* List is Incomplete *
The laying of the second cornerstone
on the United Presbyterian Church expansion building in 1953. The minister is
Reverend Foster, who headed mission from 1951-1959. On the right hand side
of the platform in the back row
is Samuel McClelland, and to his right is Nettie McClelland. The McClelland
family had been
members of the Brookline United Presbyterian Mission since February,
According to Carolyn Wood, here is an
interesting anecdote on Brookline United Presbyterian history: During the heyday
of trolley transportation in Brookline, the local route designation was #39.
During Sunday school, children were taught a quick way to remember the Brookline
route number. Thirty-nine is the number of books in the old testament, and three
times nine is the number of books on the new testament.
The Three Cornerstones
The ceremony on August 4, 1924 for the laying
of the cornerstone for the new sanctuary.
Photos of the Brookline
United Presbyterian Church
A photo from 1913 that shows the newly
constructed Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Stone Chapel, at the
corner of Queensboro and Chelton Avenues. Also of interest in the photo is
Resurrection Church high atop Creedmoor Avenue, and the Freehold Real Estate
Office in the Boulevard Triangle.
The Pittsburgh Press on December
13, 1914, reported that the Men's Bible Class of the Brookline
Brookline United Presbyterian Church, held its regular monthy meeting on
December 7 to elect officials for the coming six month term. New
official will be President, Howard Murray; Vice-President, John Sterling;
Secretary, Allan Derbaum; Treasurer, R.T. Evans.
The meeting was well attended, and
addresses were made by P.S. Space of Brookline, W.A. Lydick, president of
the Emory Bible class, Mr. Rohn, chairman of the membership committee, and
Dr. James D. Narcross, pastor of the Shady Avenue Baptist church.
Dr. Narcross' address was full of wit
and humor, and was very entertainint, and was highly appreciated by the members
of the class. Mr. C.E. Eaton was chairman of the entertainment committee, and
is certainly to be complimented for the high class program
The class has had wonderful success
since starting, less than a year ago, and has at the present time, almost
100 members, and is growing rapidly. The success of the class is attributed
to the untiring efforts of C.C. Poling, teacher of the class, and by the
spirit which he has instilled into each individual member.
A photo of Brookline Boulevard from
March 1916 looking from beyond Stebbins Avenue towards Queensboro Avenue and
the Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Stone Chapel.
Members of the Brookline Boulevard
United Presbyterian Church held a homecoming festival and reunion in their
new church on June 24, 1927, observing the twentieth anniversary of the
formation of the congregation, the fifteenth anniversary of the dedication
of the chapel and the fifth anniversary of the pastorate of Rev. John J.
McIlvane. This is an interior view of the sanctuary and the custom-built
Moller organ, copied from the Pittsburgh Press.
On a warm, sunny afternoon on June 18,
1939, the Women's Bible Class gathered on the lawn of the Brookline Boulevard
United Presbyterian Church for this photo. The class had well over 125 students
on its roster and the women played an active part in the church
The photo above appeared in the Pittsburgh
Sun-Telegraph two days before Christmas, 1943. The Second World War was raging
in Europe, North Africa, and in the Pacific. A fund was established by the
Sun-Telegraph newspaper to purchase Christmas gifts for wounded servicemen
who were being treated in local hospitals. Cub Scout Pack#18, which was based
at the United Presbyterian Church in Brookline, collected $25 for the fund.
An entourage of Cubs from the pack presented the donation.
Pictured are (left to right):
Seated: Jimmy Karl, Gary Stepp, Jack Gessner, and Jimmy Hoetzlein.
Standing: Herman Evert, Roger Neubauer, Don Sayenga, Don Little,
Bob Campbell, Bob McCartney, Ron Thompson and Paul Conrad. At the time,
Gary Stepp's father was the Cubmaster. He was an inspirational leader.
Pack 18 was large and active, with about fifty Cubs organized into seven
A 39-Brookline trolley
passes the Brookline United Presbyterian Church in the late 1940s.
The United Presbyterian
Church and new Education Wing in 1957.
The John Calvin Choir in
1960. The list below shows all of the choir members.
Boy Scout Troop #227 from the
Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church, known as the "Beetles
Beehive", back in 1961. The photo to the right shows the scouts on
a camping trip to South Park in 1961. The scoutmaster was Alex Bailey Sr,
whose son Alex Jr. was known as Beetle. In April 1966, Troop #227
celebrated it's 40th anniversary.
The photo above appeared in the
Brookline Journal on November 1, 1962. It shows the new Bobcats of Cub
Pack #18 and their parents. Shown here are, kneeling, Ricky McKee, James
Murray and James Shirley. Standing from left, George Roach and Mrs. Roach,
Ralph Ankrom and George Ankrom, Richard O'Neill and Mrs. O'Neill, Mike
Farber and Mrs. Farber, Freddie Muellershoen and Mrs. Muellershoen, Bobby
Swetkis and Robert Swetkis, Kenny Watson and Mr. and Mrs. Sam Watson,
Jimmy Hathaway and Mr. Hathaway, John Evans and Mrs.
Kathi Workman begins to fill the
racks with donated clothing as Mission: Possible volunteers put the
finishing touches on the renovation of the used clothing room.
* Last Modified
- November 18, 2018 *