Building The Community Of Brookline

Brookline Boulevard at Pioneer Avenue
and Bodkin Street during reconstruction in 1935.
Reconstruction of the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue in 1935.

The Brookline community, one of the many residential neighborhoods that make up the City of Pittsburgh, was developed in the early 1900s. Prior to that, the region known as West Liberty Borough, or Lower Saint Clair Township, was mainly populated by scattered family farms. Mining enterprises also dotted the landscape.

Starting in 1902, a few housing tracts appeared along West Liberty Avenue, near the Brookline Junction. The sale of ten farms in 1905, along with the arrival of arrival of the Pittsburgh Railways Company's high-speed electric traction line, was the catalyst to large-scale development in Brookline.

♦ Real Estate Advertisements
♦ Brookline Subdivisions
♦ Sears Catalog Homes

Related Photo Links ♦
Old School Craftsmanship ♦
Lost Brookline ♦

* Last Modified: November 28, 2021 *

Engineers discuss designs for the construction of
a section of homes known as the 'King Place Plan.'
Engineers gather on Plainview Avenue in 1906 discussing designs for the construction of the King Place Plan, which
would consist of new homes along Plainview and Woodward Avenues, between Pioneer and West Liberty Avenue.
The large white home below still stands along Woodward Avenue next to the city steps at Ray Avenue.

Real Estate Advertisements

By 1908, the community had grown to a point where it was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh. From then on, commercial and residential development accelerated.

There were four distinct phases of residential construction: the early development period from 1900 to 1910, the housing boom of the 1920s, the post-war era of the 1940s and the Renaissance I migration in the 1950s.

♦ Fleming Place/Hughey Farms Real Estate Ads (1902) ♦

♦ Freehold Real Estate Ads (1904-1916) ♦

♦ Freehold Real Estate Ads (1921-1926) ♦

♦ Freehold Real Estate Ads (1930) ♦

♦ Pitt Manor Plan (1942-1945) ♦

♦ London Towne Townhomes (1979-1986) ♦

♦ Beechview/Dormont Real Estate Ads (1901-1917) ♦

Freehold Real Estate Ad - October 02, 1910.

Souvenir Spoon - 1905

Freehold Real Estate Ad - March 26, 1928.

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Freehold Real Estate downtown office - 334 4th Avenue   Freehold Real Estate downtown office - 311 4th Avenue
Downtown Freehold Real Estate offices at 334 (left), in 1907, and later 311 Fourth Avenue, in 1915. These offices
handled many of the investment and home buying transactions for Brookliners in the early days.

Brookline Subdivisions

Up until 1950, the growth of Brookline can be charted in an illustration of the various subdivisions that make up the neighborhood. Beginning with the original six Brookline wards and continuing throughout the years, these individual tracts of land were built upon when the original landowners made them available to developers. Piece by piece, these distinct housing plans make up the puzzle board that is Brookline.

Map showing the 72 subdivisions in Brookline as of 1950.

<The 72 Brookline Subdivisions As Of 1950>

<Map Showing Incremental Growth Of Brookline>

Early development was done by the West Liberty Improvement Company, the Freehold Real Estate Company, the City of Pittsburgh, and the various parochial institutions. Infrastructure installation was handled mainly by the city, the railway company and the various utility companies.

A 1910 Freehold Real Estate billboard along
West Liberty Avenue announcing affordable
Brookline lots for sale.

In the decades that followed the 1950s, new home construction was limited to a few houses here or there. The main changes were civic infrastructure improvements, the expansion of the public and parochial institutions, the addition of two high-rise senior apartment complexes and the development of the 20-acre land tract known as the Anderson Farm into Brookline Memorial Park.

Sewer line being repaired at the
intersection of Queensboro and Berkshire Avenue - 1933.
Sewer line being repaired at the intersection of Queensboro and Berkshire Avenues in 1933.

Sears Honorbilt Catalog Homes

For many years, a home buyer could purchase a lot, then select the home of their choice through the Sears Catalog. All of the necessary building materials would be shipped to the construction site and the home built by local contractors.

One example of these Catalog homes was The Fullerton. Sears homes were so popular and made up such a large portion of the local housing stock erected during the 1920s that they came up with a design known as The Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh - Sears Catalog Home

HonorBilt Sears Catalog Models Available For Purchase:

1908-1914          1915-1920          1921-1926

1927-1932          1933-1940

Altmar Street under construction in 1946.
Altmar Street extension, looking north towards Whited Street, during construction in 1946.

Below are links to some interesting photos from the various stages of Brookline's development. They give a small glimpse of how the community as seen today came into being.

South Hills Junction - 1906
The Fullerton (Sears Catalog Homes)
Timberland Avenue - 1909
Bodkin St/Brookline Blvd - 1909
The Street Car Line - 1915
West Liberty Avenue - 1915
Pioneer Ave - 1916
Creedmoor Avenue - 1919
Fordham Avenue - 1921
Liberty Tunnels - 1922/1924
Pioneer Avenue - 1924
Bayridge Ave - 1924
Freedom Ave - 1924
Woodbourne Ave - 1924
Berkshire Avenue - 1924
Saw Mill Run Boulevard - 1925
Rossmore Avenue - 1925
Wedgemere Avenue - 1925
Bellaire Avenue - 1927
903-905 Norwich Avenue - 1927
2035 Edgebrook Avenue - 1929
Saw Mill Run Boulevard (1929-1957)
Brookline School - 1929
Cadet Avenue - 1930
Sussex Avenue - 1933
Boulevard Reconstruction - 1935
West Liberty Trolley Ramp - 1939
Moore Park - 1939/1940
737 Dunster Street - 1942
Greencrest Drive - 1942
Shoveling Coal on Woodbourne - 1943
Jacob Street - 1945
Altmar Street - 1946
Brookline Park - 1947/2013

Proposed Boulevard Extension - 1949
Eben Street - 1950
Seaton Street - 1951
United Presbyterian Church - 1953
Brookline Savings and Trust - 1953
St. Pius X Church - 1955
Breining Street - 1958
West Liberty School - 1959
Berkshire Avenue - 1960
Northcrest Drive - 1960
Our Lady of Loreto - 1961
DePaul Chapel - 1961
Recommended Improvements - 1962
Community Center - 1962
Resurrection Activities Center - 1964
Recreation Center - 1969/1971
The South Busway - 1975/1977
Danny McGibbeny Field - 1977
Mazza Pavilion - 1981
Brookline Park - Phase 3
Sam Bryen Fields -1981
Brookline Park Pool - 1981
Parkside Manor Apartments - 1983
Liberty Tunnels Interchange - 1999
CVS Pharmacy - 2000
Creedmoor Court Apartments - 2001
The Brookline Library - 2004
Brookline Park DEK Hockey Rink
Boulevard Reconstruction 1 - 2013
Boulevard Reconstruction 2 - 2014
Paving Brookline Boulevard - 2014
Rt51/Rt88 Interchange - 2013/2015
Paving Bellaire Place - 2019

Mastering Old School Craftsmanship

The majority of Brookline streets laid down in the first half of the 20th Century consisted of a gravel and sand base covered in paving bricks or belgian block. It's been said that belgian block, those large, rectangular granite rocks, were preferred over brick on the hills because it was less slippery for the wagon wheels. Roads like Birchland Street, Creedmoor Avenue and Capital Avenue are testament to that concept.

In the old days, large rectangular blocks of granite, quarried in Connellsville by the Booth and Flinn Company, were delivered to a worksite and first used, as is, to create the curbs. The individual blocks were often cut to size, by hand, by masons on site. Paving bricks were obtained from the C. P. Mayer Company in Bridgeville.

Construction workers cut large slabs into the
belgian blocks for the roadway at the corner of
West Liberty Avenue and Cape May in 1915.    Brookline still has several belgian block roads,
like Flatbush and Rossmore Avenues. These blocks on
Rossmore Avenue were installed back in 1925.
Street paving in the early 1900s was often done using Belgian blocks. The photo on the left shows construction workers
cutting stone blocks at the corner of West Liberty Avenue and Cape May in 1915. Many Brookline streets
resembled Rossmore Avenue, shown on the right. Unlike the asphalt used today, these surfaces
were built to last. Belgian block forms the base of many of our present blacktop roads.

These roads served the city well, but over time, with lack of proper maintenance, often fell into disrepair. The brick road surface was hard enough on vehicles when they were smooth, but once they became uneven and scarred with asphalt patching, they became nearly unbearable. Hills like Capital Avenue made it seem as if every bolt in the car was coming loose and may fall off at any time.

Throughout the city, the majority of these the brick and block roadways were eventually paved over with asphalt, which was easier to work with and cheaper to maintain. As the 20th Century drew to a close, only a small percentage of these durable, vintage streets are still around, and when properly maintained, they add an old school charm to the neighborhood.

Construction workers relaying Belgian Block
along Bellbrook Avenue in 2017.    Construction workers relaying Belgian Block
along Flatbush Avenue in 2014.
Belgian Block roads are now labeled as historically protected and can only be replaced under if absolutely necessary.
As a result, a new breed of skilled laborers are now learning the craft of laying Belgian Block by hand.

As the 21st Century approached, public sentiment favored saving what brick and block roadways remained. Legislation was passed to protect these street surfaces, when practicable. A crew of skilled laborers now work throughout the city restoring our vintage Pittsburgh streets.

Lost in the March of Time

Similar to the fate of the vintage brick and block roadways, and the once-familiar streetcar
rails, the march of time and development often mean the loss of old homes and buildings
that were once a vital part of the fabric of the community. To see many
of these forgotten images visit our feature page:
Lost Brookline.

If you have old photos of construction in Brookline that you would like to share with us and
have presented here, please message us on our
Brookline Connection facebook page.

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Freehold Real Estate Ad - March 19, 1916.

Freehold Real Estate Poster from 1907
touting Brookline housing market.

Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph - 11/24/1949

<Brookline History>