Brookline Public Education/Recreational History
West Liberty School, Brookline Elementary, and Moore Park
* The recollections of Professor Joseph F. Moore *

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Moore, 1950
Professor and Mrs. Joseph F. Moore, 1950


Education and Recreation both play an important role in the social development of a community. In Brookline, development of public school system and the public recreation facilities was a long and arduous journey. Over the past 100 years, the community has watched as the education system evolved from a scattering of one-room schoolhouses into a network of modern schools serving thousands of students. Brookline has also watched as the community's recreation alternatives have gone from a few private open lots to a system including two multi-purpose public parks.

Regarding education, we will concentrate on West Liberty School and its offspring Brookline Elementary. With respect to recreation, we will note the efforts of Professor Moore to provide a safe place for the children of Brookline to play.

Much of the information here was reported by Professor Joseph F. Moore, the long-time principal at West Liberty and Brookline Elementary Schools. Professor Moore served as principal of the two schools until 1940. He also oversaw Carmalt Elementary for three years after its opening in 1937.

He then took over as Chairman of the Board of the Brookline Savings and Loan Institution, a position he held until his death in the 1960s. No one man has done more to advance the interests of the Brookline community than Professor Joseph F. Moore, and generations have benefited from his stellar efforts.

West Liberty School and Brookline Elementary School

The oldest school in the Brookline area, according to Professor Moore, was situated on Pioneer Avenue near Ray and Holbrook Avenues. Another was located at the corner of Cape May and West Liberty Avenue (the original West Liberty School).

Another was the East Side School, a frame building on Edgebrook Avenue, and the fourth was a private school at the south end of the present Liberty Tubes, built by Mr. William Dilworth, an early coal mining entrepreneur, for the children of the coal miners he employed. These schools date back into the early 1800s.

As a young man Professor Moore was named principal of new West Liberty Elementary School in 1900. Situated on Pioneer Avenue near Capital, this four-room brick veneer school building, erected in 1898 at a cost of $7000, had replaced the old West Liberty School and the East Side School, which were abandoned. The other two old schoolhouses were closed shortly after.

Mr. D.C. Shaw (1898-1899) was the first principal of West Liberty Elementary School, known locally as the Little Red School House, and he had three teachers under his supervision. Two of these teachers were Miss Catherine Lang and Mrs. Palmer, who was an active member of the Beechview community, which like Brookline was then a part of West Liberty Borough.

A interesting anecdote on the building of West Liberty School was that, despite the modest price of only $7000, it caused much dissension in a remote section of West Liberty Borough, resulting in the residents of the Beltzhoover area leaving the borough and forming a political division of their own, Montooth Borough.

When Professor Moore took over the principalship of the school there were 135 pupils registered. The school term was ten months and the teacher salaries ranged from $35 to $40 a month, As principal, Professor Moore received $60.

West Liberty School, at this time, had no provision for high school education for its pupils. Shortly after Professor Moore took over, he induced the school board to make arrangements for his graduates to attend the Knoxville Union High School, for which the School Board paid a yearly tuition of $50 a year for each pupil.

In November, the residents of Mt. Lebanon had a house to house canvas to gage public opinion of Professor Moore's plan. They discovered that the residents were overwhelmingly in favor of this, so they called in an attorney to test the legal rights of this form of secondary public education.

The attorney, Jake Pressley, informed them that there was no precedent in law but advised them to go ahead with the plans. Mr. Pressley planned to introduce a bill to this effect into the Legislature at the next session. This is the first bill regarding Free Education.

Professor Moore deserves credit for this bill on Free Education. Before he became principal of the West Liberty School, he had previously been principal in the Mt. Lebanon area. He had begun his work on the Free Education proposal at that time, but left before his plans were completed. When the residents of Mt. Lebanon learned that Free Education was being offered in the West Liberty School, they became determined to make it a regional practice.

When Mr. Moore's pupils secured Free Education priviledges in the Knoxville Union High School it became necessary for Professor Moore to shape his Course of Study accordingly. Many students of Mt. Lebanon transfered to West Liberty School where they paid a tuition of $2.50 a month in order to follow the Professor's Course of Study.

Four more rooms were added to the West Liberty School in 1906. This was necessary since the population in the Brookline community surged after the street car line was extended on West Liberty Avenue. Before the Pittsburgh Railways Company was formed, there was an independent car line which came to West Liberty Avenue via Brownsville and Warrington Avenues. shortly after the street car tunnel was constructed in 1904, service was extended the following year from the Brookline Junction on West Liberty through to Edgebrook Avenue.

Children from this district attended the West Liberty School. The Brookline community was a plan of lots laid out by the West Liberty Improvement Company in 1905. Any person building a home in Brookline sent their children to the West Liberty School. The real growth of Brookline began in 1907.

In the fall of 1907 the West Liberty School had become so crowded that the School Board sought and gained permission to hold classes in the basement of St. Mark Lutheran Church on Bodkin Street, which at that time was considered Brookline Boulevard. The understanding was that the School Board was to finish the basement of the church and pay rent for it until they were successful in finding a site for another school.

A site was soon secured. and in 1908 ground was broken for the Brookline School on Woodbourne Avenue. At this time, the school was centrally located in the Brookline community. The School Board could have gotten free lots at that time on Edgebrook Avenue but this location was not central. Most building in that section of Brookline had not yet begun. Children from this remote part of Brookline mostly went to Fairhaven School.

At this time the following school districts were all under the jurisdiction of Professor Moore: West Liberty, Bon Air, Beechwood, Lee and Brookline.

At the same time the Brookline School was erected, an exact duplicate of it was erected in Beechview, known as the Beechwood School, on Rockland Avenue. These structures had corridors that were fireproof. They cost $25,000 respectively. In 1910, part of Union township was annexed to Pittsburgh. This was a strip of land off of Saw Mill Run known as "Seldom Seen". The courts directed their children to the West Liberty School.

The original Brookline School, opened in the fall of 1909, contained four rooms, what are now rooms 101, 215, 217 and the office suite. These two schools were dedicated on the same day in June, 1909. Beechwood School was dedicated in the morning. This was followed by a picnic lunch at Brookline School, with its dedication and a field meet on the Brookline School field in the afternoon. There was even a "marathon race" from Brookline School to Beechwood School and return. One runner was disqualified because he "hitched" a ride part of the way on a wagon!

The Brookline area was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh on January 4, 1908 as the 44th ward, and was then known as a sub-district instead of West Liberty. The Lee district contracted for a two room frame school building. This building was finished at a cost of $30,000 and classes started in September, 1910.

The Brookline community continued to grow, so in 1911 an addition was built to the Brookline School which cost $62,000. With this sum of money twelve more class rooms were added, six finished (rooms 103, 104, 105, 106, 107 and 108) and the others half finished. An auditorium, which had a level floor was also provided for, and classes in industrial training, sewing, home economics and manual training were begun. The six unfinished rooms (rooms 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, and 207) were completed and ready for classes in 1920.

The School Code of 1911 went into effect. It took control of the schools away from the forty-five sub-districts and placed them under the Board of Education. For a short time, Professor Moore was transferred to the Garfield School District. Miss Effie Butts, one of his assistants at Brookline School, took over the principalship. His other assistant, W.G. Gans, took over Professor Moore's duties at Lee School. During this period a modern heating plant was added to the West Liberty School.

Brookline had the first school garden, planted in 1916, in which the children took time off their school work to work in the gardens. The produce provided fresh vegetables for the school lunchrooms, and the surplus was sold at the local markets. Brookline School raised about $300 worth of produce a year. The idea soon spread and gardens were begun at West Liberty School. The students at the West Liberty School raised about $500 worth. The practice of school gardens continued well into the 1950s.

On April 24th, 1919, Professor Moore was transferred back to Brookline where he was again named Principal of the West Liberty and Brookline Schools.

When the school district was admitted to the City, Brookline students were first sent to South High School. In the meantime, construction of South Hills High School had begun in the Mount Washington area. The new high school was soon completed and Brookline students were sent there.

The school district continued to grow. The opening of the Liberty Tubes fed this extraordinary growth. Shortly after their completion, the schools became so crowded that classes were held part time. In 1928, the Board of Education constructed another addition to the Brookline School building at the cost of $106,000. At this time, eight classrooms were added including a kindergarten. In addition, the auditorium was rebuilt, two gymnasiums added and a cooking room installed.

By the mid 1930s, the West Liberty School had nine teachers and one head master. It's peak enrollment was 415 students (including kindergarten) in the 1934-1935 school year. Brookline School had thirty-three full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. The minimum salaries were $1200 per year and the maximum, $2200.

In addition to the daily student education usage, Brookline School was also used as a Community Center of which Professor Moore was in charge. This center had classes in sewing, millinery, wood work, mechanical drawing, orchestra and community chorus. This continued for several years. In 1919 an evening school was opened. Some of these old subjects continued and a course in automobile mechanics was eventually added to the curriculum.

When Overbrook Borough was annexed and East Brookline formed from part of that borough, the Board of Education bought seventeen acres of ground at the cost of $17,000. This became the site of Alice M. Carmalt School on Breining Street. Construction began in 1936 and the school opened the following year.

(end of original text)

A short followup...

West Liberty Elementary School closed in 1938. The building was purchased by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and remodeled. In 1944 it re-opened as Elizabeth Seton Girls High School. Further renovations were made in the 1950s and the high school remained open until 1979. At that time it was again remodeled and today stands as the Seton Center, run by the Sisters of Charity. It offers senior citizens care and child care services.

To make up for the loss of West Liberty School, land was purchased at the end of Crysler Street, along LaMoine Street. A new West Liberty Elementary School was constructed and opened in 1939. An addition to the school was built in 1959 to accomodate the local population surge that occured after World War II and the demolition of the lower Hill District during Pittsburgh's Renaissance I.

West Liberty Elementary School was closed in 1979. The school building sat vacant for twenty years. A push for neighborhood schools led to the re-opening of the school in 1999. Now called West Liberty K-5 and South Brook Middle School, or West Liberty Academy, the building has been extensively renovated and expanded.

Pioneer School was built in 1958, next to West Liberty School at Dunster and LaMoine Streets. The new school was equipped exclusively for handicapped and special needs children.

Alice M. Carmalt School, opened in 1937, had a large addition built in the 1950s and has undergone several modifications over the years. Today it is an advanced learning school for students from all over the city, known as Carmalt School of Science and Technology.

Brookline School has not changed much in appearance over the past sixty years. In the 1960s some portable classrooms were added next to the school to handle the ever-growing student population. The inside of the building has seen extensively remodeling over the years and is still one of the city's premier education institutions. In 2000, the building included a kindergarten, twenty-one academic rooms, a library, two industrial arts rooms, two home economics rooms, an auditorium and offices. The teaching staff numbered 27 and the student enrollment was 825.

South Hills High School in Beechview was closed in 1974, and replaced by the newly constructed John A. Brashear High School, which also includes South Hills Middle School for 6th through 8th grades. Today, children from Brookline can choose between several public high schools for secondary education, and are not required to go to any one particular school.

The same can not be said for elementary students, who are bound by the school districts feeder pattern to determine which school they must attend. Most children from Brookline attend Brookline Elementary, West Liberty K-5 or South Brook Middle School.

For parochial education over the last century, Brookline students could attend Resurrection School. Over the years, the growing student population led to the formation of St. Pius X School (1955) and Our Lady of Loreto School (1961). In 1996 these three schools were merged to form Brookline Regional Catholic, located at the St. Pius campus on Pioneer Avenue. The old Resurrection School buildings are being renovated into a senior housing complex. In 2014, Brookline Regional Catholic was renamed St. John Bosco Academy.

Public education in Brookline has come a long way in Brookline over the last 100 years. It's effect on the social development of the community can not be underestimated, and the efforts of pioneers like Professor Joseph F. Moore were instrumental in this success. Today, Brookline students have so many options in public education to help them prepare for the future, and Brookline Elementary School and West Liberty Academy are leading the way.

Recreation, Organizations and Institutions

Recreation can not be overlooked in a community. For many years, Brookline was lagging behind the rest of the city as far as this diversion was concerned. Perhaps it wasn't necessary to have parks in the early days on account of the wide open spaces surrounding the community. There were plenty of open lots, and the neighbors didn't mind the kids playing, and there were some private tennis courts, but no summer camps. As the first decade of the 1900s came to a close the only recreation grounds available were in connection with the schools.

In 1911, Professor Moore induced the School Board of the 44th ward to rent the vacant ground around the new Brookline School for five years at the rate of $100 a year. The object was to try and persuade the City of Pittsburgh to purchase these grounds during the interim for recreation purposes. This same plan was carried out with the Beechwood School in Beechview and was successful.

However, as the City of Pittsburgh was contemplating buying the grounds around the Brookline School, a New York attorney who was an authority on Municipal bonding decided that the City of Pittsburgh had exceeded its bonding power and it was decided that for a period of years no playgrounds or public improvements should be projected.

Mr. Knowlson, owner of the grounds around the Brookline School, was obsessed with the idea that it should be used for the children. So, in 1922, after Professor Moore had heard that the Board of Education had bought other ground for playground purposes, he laid a model according to scale in one of the vacant class rooms. He then held an open house so that local residents could see the outcome of such a procedure. The outcome of this was that the property was bought in 1923 and turned into a playground attached to the school.

The Brookline Board of Trade sponsored Recreation in 1908. They secured the grounds for the first baseball club located between Berkshire and Woodbourne Avenues. When this property was sold, the ballfield was moved to the property on Wedgemere Avenue between Rossmore and Gallion Avenues, next to the Brookline School Garden. At this time a playground was added behind the outfield fence of the ballfield along the Wedgemere/Rossmore corner lot.

Efforts were also made to get the wooded property off Edgewood Avenue for a swimming pool. This came about when the owners of the Paul farm allowed their taxes to become delinquent. A committee of citizens got together and purchased the property from the City in lieu of back taxes.

This property was directly opposite the West Liberty School. Plans, however, were not carried out due to Professor Moore's objections to the location. Later, in August 1931, ten more acres were bought near the same location, this time by the Pittsburgh City Council in the name of the Brookline Boosters Association.

These ten acres had been rented from the Paul family for the Bob O Link Golf Driving Range. For the next several years, nothing was done until a committee composed of members of the West Liberty Civic Club and West Liberty Council went to City Council and asked that the property be developed.

Professor Moore was the head spokesman and he asked that engineers lay plans so that the property could be developed unit by unit. City Council was impressed with the plan, and it was not long before they sent Chief Engineer Reppert to see Professor Moore for suggestions.

The progress of Brookline was brought to the public's attention on November 14, 1935 at a dinner held in the Brookline Methodist Episcopal Church by the Joint Civic Committee. The Joint Civic Committee was composed of the various organizations in Brookline, namely the Brookline Board of Trade, the Brookline Boosters Association, the Woman's Civic Club of Brookline, the Brookline Business Men's Association, the Brookline Boulevard Improvement Association, the East Brookline Community Club, the West Liberty Community Council, the Roosevelt Democratic Club, the America Legion Post 540 and the Ladies Auxiliary American Legion.

This meeting was held to celebrate the final realization of the Boulevard Improvement project. This project consisted of widening and paving the Pittsburgh Railways right-of-way for both trolley and vehicle traffic, and the creation of Bodkin Street. The boulevard was also repaved and new lighting installed. Other improvements included new sewers and infrastructure improvements.

Federal, County and City officials spoke. The object of the Joint Civic Committee was brought out. It stressed that every student of civic affairs knows that the growth and expansion of any suburb of a great city is vitally dependent upon the installation of such civic improvements as are necessary to keep pace with its development. No community can thrive without an up-to-date main thoroughfare; or without its own cultural and recreational centers.

The lack of these indispensable civic facilities were keenly felt in Brookline over the early years of its existence. Numerous efforts were made, by various civic bodies and individually civic spirited citizens to secure these badly needed improvements.

This general demand finally reached its climax in a large mass meeting held October 17, 1933, under the auspices of all Brookline's Civic Organizations. At this meeting it was resolved that delegates from each civic body be appointed, together to be constituted into a Joint Civic Commitee, whose sole object it shall be to obtain these needed civic improvements for Brookline. The Committee was headed by none other than Professor Joseph F. Moore.

In the following two year period the total cost of improvements made in Brookline, sponsored by the Joint Civic Committee, amounted to nearly one half million dollars. One of their major achievements was the relocation of Brookline Blvd. The cost of relocating the Boulevard from West Liberty to Pioneer Avenue, including property damages, amounted to $220,000, made available from the 1928 bond issue known as Bond Fund 293.

Professor Moore concluded that "the broad lane of traffic from West Liberty to Pioneer Avenue, now being built, is sure to open a new chapter in the development of Brookline. It will add considerably to the value of Brookline property and make it a much more desirable place to live." He was quite correct in his statement.

Another accomplishment of the Joint Civic Committee was the installation of the Brookline Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, established in the year of 1930 and located in the basement of the Brookline Methodist Episcopal Church.

The new Brookline Library was made possible through the circulation of a public petition presented to City Council, citing the need for a library for the people of Brookline. Professor Moore commented, "The intelligence, alertness to new ideas, and the basic culture of a community are usually reflected in its use of its pubic library. Judged upon this basis, Brookline ranks high among the districts of Pittsburgh."

The Committee deemed it a privilege to record that Professor Moore, with his characteristic energy, used his utmost endeavor in his intercession with the authorities, with the highly gratifying result that on September 1, 1935, the Post Office Department announced the granting of a branch post office for Brookline. The Post Office would be known as Brookline Station, Pittsburgh. Prior to the new Brookline Post Office, residents of Brookline receive their mail through the Dormont Post Office.

The final major achievement of the Joint Civic Committee was the construction of a public recreation facility on the grounds bought previously near West Liberty School on Pioneer Avenue. Completed in 1940 and named Joseph F. Moore Park, the playground supplies an imperative civic necessity to the Brookline community.

This was done on the property that Professor Moore asked to be engineered and developed unit by unit. The site was develop3ed by the City of Pittsburgh and the Works Project Administration. When the park was completed, it was one of the finest in Allegheny County. It contained a recreation building, two athletic fields, an olympic sized swimming pool, tennis courts, a playground and a nice picnic area with fountains and plenty of shade trees.

One of Professor Moore's suggestions that did not materialize was the building of a public high school in or near Brookline. "If the financial resources of the Board of Education warrant," the Professor stressed, "then the erection of a high school in Brookline to serve the entire district is desirable. It is estimated that 600 boys and girls of the Brookline commute daily to the South Hills High School. This necessitates the expense of carfare and waste of time consumed in long streetcar rides."

(end of original text)

A short followup:

Unfortunately, this suggestion fell by the wayside. South Hills High School continued as Brookline's only choice for secondary public education until the late-1970s, when local students were transferred to Brashear High School, opened in 1976 in Beechview off of Crane Avenue. Brookline failed to get their new high school, but because of the efforts of Professor Joseph F. Moore and others like him, Brookline's social development was strengthened by the addition of the many diverse recreational alternatives.

Over the past seventy-plus years, Moore Park has continued to serve the community in a way the would have impressed Professor Moore. The park has not changed much in all these years. A new child-friendly playground was installed in the 1990s, and the swimming pool underwent a major overhaul, with the diving boards removed in favor of a new water-slide. Parking has been improved slightly. In 2001, a move to expand the park with a multi-million dollar, ten acre expansion was vetoed by local residents based on privacy concerns.

This was but one minor setback in the pursuit of better recreation facilities. A major victory was celebrated in 1945, when the newly formed Community Center Association secured the 20 acre Anderson Farm for $20,000, between Brookline Boulevard and Breining Street, and began the long task of creating a new park for the residents of East Brookline.

The new park, designated the Brookline Memorial Community Center, was graually developed by the association, with the generous donations of labor and material from local Brookline enterprises. In 1951, a new baseball field was built, and the Brookline Little League was formed, an institution that entered its 50th year in 2000.

The old farmhouse was renovated and turned into a community meeting and recreation hall, and the land around the building was developed into a multi-purpose recreation area with playground equipment and a large open space for community gatherings like annual fund-raising carnivals.

Facing increasing financial burdens, the Community Center Association sold the property to the city of Pittsburgh for a sum of $1 with the promise that the city would develop the land in a fashion similar to Moore Park. Over the next 40 years, the city invested millions of dollars into the park. A new multi-purpose recreation building was built, along with three new baseball fields, a swimming pool, a child-friendly playground and large open green spaces.

It truly is a beautiful park and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the members of the Community Center Association, and later the Brookline Area Community Council, under the leadership of Mrs. Elva McGibbeny. Without their stellar efforts, the new Brookline Memorial Park would be but a dream.

The Brookline Library, first located in the basement of the Methodist Church, moved to a new building at 730 Brookline Boulevard in the 1942, then moved to a larger building at 708 Brookline Boulevard in 1991. In 2001, the building was purchased by the Brookline Area Community Council, under the leadership of Mrs. Marlene Curran. Grant money for the project was obtained through State Representatives Frank Gigliotti and Michael Diven.

The building was handed over to the city of Pittsburgh with the promise that it would be renovated and, most importantly, that this valuable community asset would remain in Brookline for many years to come. The building was transformed in a multi-million dollar renovation. On February 7, 2004, the ultra-modern facility, one of the nicest Carnegie Library Branches in the entire city of Pittsburgh, was dedicated.

The Brookline Branch of the United States Post Office, originally located at 742 Brookline Boulevard, served until 1958, when a new state-of-the-art building was built at 612 Brookline Boulevard. Professor Moore was still active in community affairs at the time, and was the Master of Ceremonies at the dedication of the facility. At that time he was the Chairman of the Board of the Brookline Savings and Trust Company, having retired as principal of Brookline and Carmalt Schools in 1940.

The Brookline community has experienced steady growth over the last century, and its residents have been blessed with the availability of ample recreational alternatives. If recreation truly is an important factor in the social development of a community, then Brookline has to rank as one of the more socially developed communities in the city of Pittsburgh. There are so many alternatives available now for the children to play and grow in a safe and friendly atmosphere.

Most of this material came from a 20-page work donated to the Brookline Branch Library on March 14, 1941 by
Miss Wida Jane Cook. Some anecdotes were obtained from a Brookline Journal article dated May, 1959.
The remainder was written and edited by Clint Burton, September 30, 2014.

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