A Look Back in Time at Our Community
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Brookline is located in the South Hills section (4th City Council District, 19th and 32nd Ward) of the City of Pittsburgh. Today, Brookline is Pittsburgh's second largest neighborhood. Throughout its long history, the community has retained a certain character and charm that have enriched its citizens. It has built up a heritage that spans 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 them.
The borough of Pittsburgh was chartered in 1759. Native American resentment of the invaders from the east eventually led to hostilities, and many of the earliest settlers were driven out during the Indian Uprising in 1763.
After the American Revolution, the borough began to expand rapidly. Land grants were issued to veterans of the War of Independence. Those who settled in the Brookline area were members of the Pennsylvania Militia.
Known as the "Gateway to the West", Pittsburgh soon became a vital port-of-call for the multitude of adventurers seeking passage to the vast western territories of the fledgling 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 a part of Lower St. Clair Township known as West Liberty. This was prime farmland and for much of the 19th century. West Liberty farms 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 Hills "Brookline."
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.
The 20th century saw the advent of the automobile, and the addition of trolley service in 1904 led to the rapid residential development of the South Hills, including the Brookline community, then refered to as West Liberty Borough. Annexed into the city of Pittsburgh in 1908, Brookline grew quickly 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 early 1970s.
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 Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
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 community of Brookline marked the 100th anniversary of its annexation into the city of Pittsburgh, our neighborhood centennial, on January 4, 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 100 years.
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 are.
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 it is affordably priced.
Brookline - A Special Place!
The Brookline Connection
webpage is designed and maintained by Clint Burton.
Last Modified: 18 February 2018