Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian
Church History (1900-2018)

Brookline United Presbyterian Church - 2004

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 MISSION

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, Robert H. Hood, 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 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 January, 1907.

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 March, 1908, when the "Knowlson Methodist Church", at the corner of West Liberty Avenue and Brookline Boulevard, was purchased and renovated. At this time the Mission was known as the West Liberty United Presbyterian Church.

Original Church Building - 1907
West Liberty U.P. 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 Avenue.

West Liberty United Presbyterian Church
The former West Liberty United Presbyterian Church, located above the intersection
of Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue, shown here in 1915.

THE OLD STONE CHAPEL

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 be constructed. In May 1912, the congregation voted to change the name to the Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church. In June 1912, an additional adjacent lot was purchased for $3500.

Original Stone Chapel - 1912
The original Stone Chapel, constructed in 1912-1913.

The original cornerstone was laid on September 29, 1912, and 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.

GROWTH AND EXPANSION

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 1924, the cornerstone was laid for a large 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.

United Presbyterian Church - 1924.
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.

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. Ferguson, baritone.

Mrs. Henry Schoenefeldt.
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.

United Presbyterian Church - 1924.
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.

Artists conception of United
Presbyterian expansion - 1952
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 - 1957
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. Jamise.

During this time the Mission thrived. Among the many services provided at the church was the Brookline Community Food Bank, Scouting for boys and girls, Clothing Recycling Service and a pre-school program. Upgrades to the church included the addition of a handicapped ramp, installed in the 1980s and some foundation work in the 1990s.

However, as time went on and the population in the community began to decline, the Mission membership began to suffer.

CHANGING TIMES

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.

United Presbyterian Church - 2013.
The Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church in March 2013.

United Presbyterian Church - 2013.    United Presbyterian Church - 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.

CLOSING THE MISSION

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 the Mission.

MISSION PASTORS (1900-1959)

Reverend Robert H. Hood (1900-1913)
Reverend J. W. Hood (1913-1921)
Reverend J. J. McIlvaine (1922-1929)
Reverend Raymond Copeland (1929-1948)
Reverend W. J. H. McKnight (1949-1950)
Reverend Stillman Alan Foster (1951-1959)

Laying the second cornerstone at United
 Presbyterian Church - 1953
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, 1913.

THREE TIMES NINE

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

United Presbyterian Church Cornerstone - 1912.    United Presbyterian Church Cornerstone - 1924.

United Presbyterian Church Cornerstone - 1953.


Photos of the Brookline United Presbyterian Church

Brookline Boulevard, 1913

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.

Men's Bible Class - 1914

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 presented.

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.

Brookline Boulevard, 1916

A photo of Brookline Boulevard from March 1916 looking from beyond Stebbins Avenue towards Queensboro Avenue and the Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Stone Chapel.

Bible Class at United Presbyterian Church - 1939

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 activities.

United Presbyterian Church
Cub Scout Pack#18 - 1943

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 dens.

39-Brookline trolley passes Triangle Park and the Brookline United
 PResyterian Church at the intersection with Queensboro Avenue.

A 39-Brookline trolley passes the Brookline United Presbyterian Church in the late 1940s.

United Presbyterian Church - 1957

The United Presbyterian Church and new Education Wing in 1957.

The John Calvin Choir
 - United Presbyterian Church - 1960

The John Calvin Choir in 1960. The list below shows all of the choir members.

The John Calvin Choir
 Membership - 1960

The Beetles Beehive    The Beetles Beehive - 1961

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.

United Presbyterian Church Cub Pack 18 - 1962.

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. Evans.

* Last Modified - September 27, 2018 *

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