The Growth Of The Community Of Brookline


Click on the map to enlarge.

The Borough of West Liberty, formed in 1867 and formerly part of Lower St. Clair Township, was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh on January 6, 1908. At the time, West Liberty was divided into two distinct neighborhoods, Beechview and Brookline, with West Liberty Avenue as the dividing line. The Blue shaded area on the above map shows the original 1908 boundaries of the Community of Brookline.

In 1908, Brookline was bordered by the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Beechview, Bon Air and Carrick, and the townships of Scott and Baldwin. As the City of Pittsburgh continued to expand, the community of Brookline also grew, with new territory added to the census tracts in 1916, 1930 and 1950.

In 1916, the green area was annexed into the city from Baldwin Township as part of Brookline. The area was already referred to as part of Brookline and was under development as a section of Brookline by the Freehold Real Estate Company even though it was still part of Baldwin.

Then, in 1930, the red area was rezoned as part of Brookline when the Borough of Overbrook was annexed into the city. This rezoning was rife with political intrigue and is a move that, to this day, causes consternation among Overbrook leaders. Despite Overbrookers feelings of frustration, it is, however much they want it back, a part of Brookline.

Finally, in 1950 the yellow section of the map was annexed into the city from Baldwin Township, putting an end to the growth and completing the present-day boundaries of Brookline.


After much research, we were able to come up with this explanation as to why such a significant part of Overbrook was rezoned and added to the Brookline census tract.

The Overbrook area broke from Baldwin Township in 1922 and became a distinct borough. Some of the Overbrook leaders wanted very much to become part of the city of Pittsburgh, but the majority of the residents continually voted down their referendums.

In the mid-1920s the area of East Brookline began to develop quickly, and the resulting population increase was enough to swing the vote in favor of annexation. These East Brookline voters were overwhelmingly in favor of joining the city, and they were also very much in favor of having their children attend Brookline Elementary School rather than the borough's Fairhaven and Overbrook Schools.

Now, the head of the borough council, anticipating an annexation in the near future, began racking up millions of dollars in debt making public improvements (road, sewer, electric) in the old, established Overbrook area, believing that these debts would be assumed by the city when the big day of union came.

In a 1929/1930 referendum, another vote was cast and the result was in favor of annexation, but the vote was close. The long-standing Overbrook residents again voted against and, as anticipated, the new East Brookline residents were nearly 98% in favor.

When the annexation finally occurred, a long and bitter battle began in the courts over the city assumption of the Overbrook Borough debt, one that would not be settled until 1954. In a gesture of support for the East Brookline residents with regards to their desire to attend Brookline Elementary School, the city redrew the boundaries of the two neighborhoods, rezoning the large East Brookline tract and some other land tracts along Breining Street, including the Anderson Farm and the sizeable Brookdale subdivision, as part of the Brookline census tract.

Hence, Overbrook lost their claim to East Brookline and the rest of that large tract of red territory due to municipal bitterness over the alleged corrupt practices of the former borough council along with the poor response of long-standing borough residents towards the union with the city. The fact that the new East Brookline residents overwhelmingly wanted to be part of the city of Pittsburgh and the community of Brookline was rewarded.

Call it the "Brookline/Overbrook Border Controversy" or whatever you like. No matter what the dispute is refered to, it is an interesting historical part of the growth of the community of Brookline.


In related news, as far as city wards go for voting purposes, the established part of Brookline (West Liberty or West Brookline) remained part of Ward 19, while the new section (East Brookline) remained part of Ward 32 along with Overbrook. When the small yellow section was annexed in 1950 it was added to Ward 32.

With regards to civil complaints and the local District Justices, Ward 19 residents are served by the justice located on Brookline Boulevard. Ward 32 residents are served by the justice located on Brownsville Road.

Also of interest as far as school choice goes is that within the 1950 yellow area is a subdivision called Highview Acres, built in the early 2000s on the hilltop across from McNeilly Road. It is the only tract in the city where residents can choose whether they want to go to city public schools or to suburban (in this case Baldwin) schools.


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