The History Of Brookline Boulevard
And The Commercial District

Brookline Boulevard, 1936.
The Brookline Boulevard Commercial District in 1936, looking west from Chelton Avenue and Veteran's Memorial Park.

Brookline Boulevard has been the commercial and cultural center of the Community of Brookline since the early days of the 20th Century. It's roots date back much further, to the 1830s, when Pittsburghers first began their slow migration into the southern hills.

The following is a short history of Brookline Boulevard, which runs east-to-west through the heart of the neighborhood. For generations of Brookliners, the boulevard has been a place that has enriched their lives with it's unique character and charm.

History of Brookline Boulevard

♦ Early South Hills Roadways
♦ Hunter Avenue and Knowlson Avenue
♦ Clusters Of Homes Along Oak Hill
♦ West Liberty Improvement Company
♦ Pittsburgh Railways 39-Brookline
♦ Slow But Steady Growth
♦ Liberty Tunnels Bring Prosperity
♦ Upper and Lower Brookline Boulevard
♦ Weathering The Great Depression
♦ Brookline Boulevard Triangle Park
♦ Modernization Of The Boulevard
♦ It's Now Called Bodkin Street
♦ Proposed Eastern Extension
♦ Era Of Post-War Prosperity
♦ An Outdoor Shopping Mall

Neighborhood Parade Ground ♦
Streetcar Service Discontinued ♦
Turbulence Of The Late-Sixties ♦
Signs Of Age In The Seventies ♦
Resurgence Of Community Pride ♦
Big Business vs. Small Business ♦
A Time Of Renewed Hope ♦
Millenium Brings Positive Change ♦
Boulevard Reconstruction Project ♦
The Heart Of It All ♦
Assorted Newspaper Articles ♦
Short But Sweet Drone Video ♦
Always Looking For Old Photos ♦
A Pawsburgh Christmas ♦
Dino Guarino's Classic Print ♦

♦ Links To Photos Past And Present ♦

Brookline Boulevard, looking northwest from near Glenarm Avenue towards Pioneer Avenue.
For more birds-eye views of the boulevard, visit Brookline As Seen From Above.
a fine collection of aerial images by Matt Lackner in December 2014.

Brookline Boulevard Aerial View - December 2014

Early South Hills Roadways

From the first recorded colonial surveys, Brookline was part of Lower St. Clair Township, an area locally referred to as Oak Hill, and later West Liberty. The wooded, rolling hills were sparsely populated with individual farms.

It is hard to determine when exactly the roadway that would one day become Brookline Boulevard was laid out. Pioneer Avenue, which intersects the boulevard near it's western end, was established in 1797.

Pioneer was originally known as the Pittsburgh to Washington State Road, and later referred to as the Coal Hill and St. Clair Turnpike Road. A roadway of major importance until the 1840s, in the latter part of the century it was renamed Lang Avenue.

Wenzel Avenue at the corner of
West Liberty Avenue in April, 1913.
The intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Wenzel Avenue, shown in 1913. These were two of the earliest pioneer roads.
This photo was taken from the western end of Brookline Boulevard, a location known as the Brookline Junction.

Wenzel Avenue was first laid out in 1832, following a hilly path from present-day Greentree Road to Brookline Boulevard at Pioneer. West Liberty Avenue followed in 1839, and was originally called Plummer's Run, as it followed the course of Plummer's Run Creek down the valley to Saw Mill Run. The future path of Brookline Boulevard most likely emerged around that time as a dirt lane connecting the farms in this section of Lower St. Clair and Baldwin.

In 1876, the Borough of West Liberty was officially incorporated. It consisted of the present-day Brookline and Beechview communities. Below ground, mining operations became the main enterprise in the area. Above ground, the landscape was still dotted with farm fields interspersed with large tracts of lush woodland. The 1880 census lists the Borough's population as 865, with a large number settled along West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run.

Hunter Avenue and Knowlson Avenue

Maps from the turn-of-the-century, during the West Liberty Borough days, identify what is now Brookline Boulevard as Hunter Avenue (Bodkin) and Knowlson Avenue. Hunter Avenue ran from West Liberty Avenue to Lang Avenue (Pioneer), then merged into Knowlson Avenue, which ran along the boulevard's present course to the borough border at Oak Street (Whited).

Turn of the century map showing the path of
Brookline Boulevard, then known as Hunter
Avenue and Knowlson Avenue. The road ran
from West Liberty Avenue to Whited Street.
A 1905 map showing the path of Brookline Boulevard, then consisting of Hunter Avenue and Knowlson Avenue,
then part of West Liberty Borough. The roadway extended from West Liberty Avenue to Whited Street.

Knowlson Avenue led to three connecting roadways. They were Hughey Road (Edgebrook), Oak Street and Fairhaven Avenue (approximate path of Merrick, Breining and Glenbury). These roads in turn led to the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad stations along Saw Mill Run.

On the entire mile-long length of Knowlson there were just two additional pathways, both leading to the family homesteads in the vast Knowlson Farm. The quaint, comfortable atmosphere of this rural American landscape would soon change.

Small Clusters Of Homes Along Oak Hill

In the late-1800s, the majority of the population within the present-day borders of Brookline lived along the West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Corridor. Along West Liberty Avenue, just south of Warrington Avenue at the base of the hillside, were the Sauter Place and Lewis/Garrigan plans.

Going east, from West Liberty along the Saw Mill Run corridor to the Borough border, were the established Boggs Place and Zimmerman Park plans. Both were positioned along the West Side Belt railroad line.

1896 map showing the
small town of Reflectorville.
An 1896 map showing the small town of Reflectorville, located at the bottom of
Edgebrook Avenue, then known as Hughey Road, or the Township Road.

From Hughey Road to Oak Street was the small hamlet of Reflectorville, established in 1890. This land was formerly part of Baldwin Township, and later Overbrook Borough. The homes were part of the Bailey and Moon plans. The settlement was developed by Thomas Bailey and David Moon, president and treasurer of Pittsburgh's Bailey Reflector Company.

These small housing tracts were populated largely by the families of miners who worked in the Oak Mine and railroad employees. Aside from these clusters of homes along the Oak Hill valleys, there was no other formal housing development happening in this part of West Liberty Borough as the 19th Century drew to a close.

West Liberty Improvement Company

The transformation of Oak Hill from rural farmland to urban neighborhood began in the early-1900s. The first housing plans to appear in the newspapers and on plot maps were the Fleming Place and Hughey Farms Plan, in 1902. Located between Lang and West Liberty Avenue, these homes were advertised as being in the Mount Lebanon District.

1905 map showing the Paul Place Plan.
A 1905 map showing the Paul Place Plan.

Further to the north, along Lang Avenue, another tract of homes was being developed by the Paul Land Company. This plan included streets like Oakwood Avenue (Capital), High Street (Plainview), Terrace Street (Woodward), Hamline Avenue (Stetson), Orchard Avenue (Dunster), Centre Avenue (Mayville), Siebert Avenue (Fernhill) and Stang Avenue (LaMarido).

On March 12, 1905, the West Liberty Improvement Company acquired 500 acres of borough land through thesale of ten farms in the eastern part of the borough and, in cooperation with the other development firms, began drawing up blueprints that were the Birth of Brookline.

A Freehold Real Estate advertisement from the Post-Gazette announcing the new "Boulevard at Brookline."

Engineers designed Brookline as a stand-alone suburban municipality, free of the noise and smog of the city, with Brookline Boulevard as the main street. The same was being done by the Beechwood Improvement Company in the adjoining Beechview section of West Liberty, with Broadway Avenue as it's central roadway.

Within months of the farm sale, newspapers began running a series of real estate advertisements touting the emerging suburb. The length of roadway consisting of Hunter and Knowlson Avenue were combined to form one broad street, the Boulevard at Brookline, around which the new South Hills community would grow.

1905 Freehold illustration
of Brookline Boulevard
A 1905 Freehold illustration of Brookline's grand new boulevard.

While the West Liberty Improvement Company worked quickly to build the infrastructure of the community, the Freehold Real Estate Company set up an office at the corner of Brookline Boulevard, Chelsea (Chelton) and Queensboro Avenues. From this crossroads location, Freehold agents orchestrated the early growth and development of the community.

Pittsburgh Railways 39-Brookline

Also in 1905, the Pittsburgh Railways Company installed the original single-track streetcar line connecting Brookline to the City of Pittsburgh via the recently-constructed Mount Washington Transit Tunnel. The new branch route was given the designation 39-Brookline.

West Liberty Avenue at the intersection
with Brookline Boulevard and Wenzel Avenue - 1915.
The Brookline Junction, shown here in 1915, during the early stages of the West Liberty Avenue reconstruction. The first
electrified streetcar route in the South Hills was installed in 1902 and followed the single-track line to Mount Lebanon.
The 39-Brookline followed the double-track to the left and on to the right-of-way that led to Brookline Boulevard.

The route ran along West Liberty Avenue to the Brookline Junction. It followed a looping right-of-way to the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue, then followed the length of the boulevard to Breining Street. From there it proceeded into Overbrook and on to a junction with the Charleroi line, along Saw Mill Run, for the return trip to town.

In 1910, the Brookline route was altered. Instead of a continuous one-way loop from downtown Pittsburgh and back, the line, which had been double-tracked along the boulevard, beginning at West Liberty Avenue through to Edgebeook, was extended to a looping turnaround constructed astride the 1400 block of the emerging housing development called East Brookline.

A Jones Car marked for the 39-Brookline route
stands at the South Hills Junction in 1948.
A Pittsburgh Railways Jones Car, first introduced in the 1920s, marked for the 39-Brookline route stands at the
South Hills Junction in 1948. The original trolleys used in Brookline were
four-wheelers known as box cars.

Streetcars now traveled in both directions along Brookline Boulevard. For the next fifty-six years, the 39-Brookline provided the growing neighborhood with reliable public transportation. In the early years, before automobiles became the standard mode of travel, the streetcar was the most common way to get from here to there within the city of Pittsburgh.

Slow But Steady Growth Of The Community

On January 4, 1908, West Liberty Borough was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh. Municipal dollars now began to flow into the fledgling community of Brookline. Along with improvements in the streetcar line, the boulevard road surface was paved for the first time using a mix of bricks and belgian block.

Brookline Boulevard, 1909
Brookline Boulevard in early 1909, looking from Flatbush Avenue towards Castlegate Avenue. The first building
on the left is Dooley's Meat Market, constructed in 1907. The firehouse behind it is still under construction.

Brookline Boulevard, 1910
Brookline Boulevard in 1910 at the corner of Chelton Avenue. The Freehold Real Estate office stands
on the corner island where present-day Triangle Park and the Veteran's Memorial reside.

The streetcar line ran down the center of the roadway. On each side of the right-of-way was one lane for horse-drawn wagon and vehicular traffic, and another for parallel parking.

Along the broad avenue were a mix of residential homes and commercial establishments. From Pioneer Avenue to the city line at Edgebrook Avenue, new houses appeared on the northern side. Across the street, larger two and three-story structures, with first-floor merchant space and apartments above, were constructed across the street.

Real Estate Advertisement - October 20, 1907.
To see a collection of Freehold Real Estate advertisements from 1905-1907, click here.

One of the first business establishments was Dooley's Meat Market, built in 1907 and located at 704 Brookline Boulevard. The original Brookline Methodist Church, at the corner of Wedgemere Avenue, and the two-story stone house at the corner of Pioneer which served as the office of Brookline's first physician, Dr. C.C. Lang, were also erected that same year.

Maps published in early-1910 showed six businesses and eight homes standing between Pioneer Avenue and the city line. This count included four three-story structures and the large estate home of David Hunter, located on a large lot at the corner of Pioneer, across the boulevard from the Lang residence.

Also shown are the Methodist Church and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Engine House #57 at the corner of Castlegate Avenue. Construction of the historic firehouse began in 1910 and the building was officially dedicated on June 23, 1911.

Brookline Engine House - 1920
Brookline's Engine House #57, shown here in 1920.

In 1912, another iconic Brookline Boulevard church was constructed. The Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterians built their Stone Chapel at the corner of Queensboro Avenue. Like the Methodist Church, the chapel was a much smaller version of the present-day church. Both churches were enlarged to their present-day grandeur in the 1920s.


In January 11, 1914, the Board of Trade, formed in 1907, installed new officers. H.H. Wolfe succeeded E.H. Melvin as president. H.F. Ruoff became vice-president; H.L. Angloch, second vice-president; J.H. Dumbell, secretary, and George Hughey, treasurer.

The new president appointed the following committees; Transportation - H. Ruoff, chairman; A.J. Shirring, J.P. Myron, R.S. Flinn, R.A. Armstrong and Edward Ebrenz. Health and sanitation - Dr. Steffy, chairman; Dr. O. Hogen, Dr. Marks, M. Rihn, F.O. Nixon and George Seska. Civic improvement - P.S. Space, chairman; J.T. Bealor, H.L. Angloch, George Turnbaugh, Edward S. Cook and C.E. Keck. Legislation - J.J. Sullivan, chairman; J.J. Lippencott, Joseph Hammerle, E.G. Fink, J.H. Evans and G.W. Wilson. Municipal and county affairs - Dr. R.A. Hutchinson, chairman; W.R. Cole, H.B. Cox, J.H. Weigman, Thomas Musgrove and R.D. Cree. Streets, sewers and lights - George Hughey, chairman; J.H. Mullholland, J.M. Knight, A.W. McCance, J.N. Sullebarger and C.D Cooley. Education - Joseph F. Moore, chairman; W.G. Gans, C.E. Fulton, Joseph G. Dooley, W.S. Foster and T.R. Williamson.


By early-1916 the number of homes and businesses along Brookline Boulevard had grown from seventeen to thirty-two. Many of the commercial establishments were grocery and meat markets. While housing development throughout the community continued at a brisk pace, this steady growth of the Commercial District proceeded into the following decade.

Brookline Boulevard at the intersection
with Glenarm Avenue - March 1916.
Brookline Boulevard, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue, in March 1916. Also visible are homes along Bellaire Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard, looking towards
Stebbins Avenue, in 1916.    A home along Brookline in 1916.
A view of Brookline Boulevard, looking towards Stebbins Avenue (left), and a new home along the residential side in 1916. Visible in the left photo is the United Presbyterian Church's original Stone Chapel at Queensboro and Chelton Avenues.

The Brookline News Agency, located
across from Flatbush Avenue - March 1916
The Brookline News Agency and the office of Caterer C.M. Reeves, shown in 1916, located at 806 Brookline Boulevard.
This building, across from the Flatbush intersection, is the present-day location of Gordon's Lounge.

The Liberty Tunnels Bring Prosperity

One of the biggest contributors to growth and prosperity in Brookline came in 1924, with the opening of the Liberty Tunnels. The 5889 foot Twin Tubes, as they were commonly called, were an engineering marvel, bored through Mount Washington, that connected the South Hills communities with downtown Pittsburgh.

Real Estate Advertisement - June 5, 1921.

The Roaring Twenties were an era of sustained economic prosperity following the Great War. It was also the age of Henry Ford's Model T, and many families now owned an automobile. Travel time to and from the Golden Triangle was slashed to a matter of minutes.

Beginning in 1921, Brookline Boulevard rapidly took on a new look. The entire length of the roadway was covered in paving bricks, from Pioneer Avenue through to Breining Street. Real Estate advertisements, like the one shown above that appeared on June 5, 1921 in the Sunday Pittsburgh Gazette Times, touted both the Twin Traffic Tunnels and boulevard improvements.

West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Boulevard
at the intersection with the Liberty Tunnels.
The southern portals of the Liberty Tunnels, at the junction of West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Boulevard, in 1930.
Opened in 1924, the Twin Tubes, like the streetcar service that began in 1904, were a major transportation
improvement that brought exponential growth and investment to the South Hills communities.

As a direct result of the tunnel project, real estate sales and housing development in the southern neighborhoods entered a boom phase as the population swelled. This accelerated upon completion of the tunnels.

By 1925, the population of Brookline had more than doubled and property values skyrocketed. Three farms in Brookline that were appraised at $68,000 in 1920 saw their property valuation increase to $1.3 million. Individual housing and retail space also saw considerable gains.

Brookline Boulevard - 1924.    Brookline Boulevard - 1924.
Brookline Boulevard in 1924, showing street conditions near Queensboro Avenue (left) and Castlegate Avenue.

Construction of housing and new business establishments took place all along the boulevard commercial district. Providing the financing for much of this activity was the Brookline Savings and Trust Company, which opened its doors in 1926. Located at 820 Brookline Boulevard, the financial institution was instrumental in the further development of the community.

By the end of the decade, there were nearly 100 buildings lining the thoroughfare from Pioneer Avenue to Edgebrook. The northern side of the street was a nearly continuous line of homes. The southern side lined with a variety of businesses, including two movie theatres, most with multiple apartments or merchant living quarters on the upper floors.

The counter of the Kroger Grocery Store - 1925.
The counter at the Kroger Grocery store at 944 Brookline Boulevard in 1925.

The Upper And Lower End Of The Boulevard

The east-west main street through the Commercial District was flanked on either side by the upper and lower sections of Brookline Boulevard. The upper stretch, or the western end, ran from Pioneer Avenue to West Liberty Avenue and the Brookline Junction.

One of the original boulevard churches was built along the upper section at 403 Brookline Boulevard, just west of Pioneer Avenue at the Shawhan Avenue intersection. The St. Marks Lutheran chapel opened on September 20, 1908. Twenty years later, the Mission moved to a much larger church constructed at the corner of the boulevard and Glenarm Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard and West Liberty Avenue - 1909    Brookline Boulevard, 1913
The corner of West Liberty Avenue and Brookline Boulevard during street paving in 1909 (left), and a 1913 view of
the lower end of the boulevard. St. Marks Church, opened in 1908, can be seen to the left of the roadway.

In October 1909, this two-lane hilly portion of the boulevard, formerly known as Hunter Avenue and presently called Bodkin Street, was paved in belgian block. As the boundary of the Fleming Place and Hughey Farms Plan, homes were built on either side of the roadway. It was one of the main community gateways and saw increasingly heavy vehicular traffic.

The lower section of the boulevard, or the eastern end, from Edgebrook Avenue to Jacob Street, evolved in the mid-1910s during the development of the East Brookline housing plans. This stretch of the roadway followed the path of the streetcar line into Overbrook Borough.

View of the lower end of Brookline Boulevard - 1951
A 1951 view of the lower end of Brookline Boulevard, along the 1400 block, looking west towards Breining Street.

Beyond Breining Street, it was extended as a two-lane residential roadway along the northern side of the Fairhaven Valley to Jacob Street, where the boulevard came to an end. A left turn at Jacob Street led to Whited Street and on to the Saw Mill Run corridor.

By the end of the 1920s, this lower section of the boulevard was lined with new residential housing. In 1930, Overbrook was annexed into the city, and the entire lower section of the boulevard was incorporated into the boundaries of the Brookline community.

Weathering The Great Depression Years

In 1929, Brookline's population had swelled to nearly 14,000. On school days, the boulevard was deluged with children walking to or from class. Overcrowding at Brookline and West Liberty Elementary led to the final major community improvement of the Roaring Twenties.

In September 1929, Brookline Elementary School celebrated the grand opening of their newly-built education wing, which nearly doubled the student capacity. It seemed as though the good times and continual prosperity would never end.

Brookline Elementary School - 1929
A new wing is added to Brookline Elementary School, located at the corner of Pioneer and Woodbourne Avenue, in 1929.

On "Black Tuesday," October 29, 1929, the Wall Street Panic struck and sent the country spiraling into the Great Depression. The community of Brookline joined the nation in struggling with the difficult economic times that followed.

One of the first casualties was the housing market. The once thriving enterprise suffered a series of foreclosures and defaults on loans. New construction and sales came to a halt. Merchants also felt the sting of the monetary crisis and some went out of business.

Brookline Boulevard, 1928.    A Jones Car approaches the Stebbins
Avenue Car Stop on Brookline Boulevard in 1933.
Looking southeast along the streetcar rails that ran down the center of Brookline Boulevard from near Pioneer Avenue (left),
and a 39-Brookline Jones Car approaches the Stebbins Avenue Car Stop in 1933. The second building from the
right is the original Brookline Savings and Trust building, with it's stately, pillared concrete facade.

With such a large industrial base, the City of Pittsburgh faired better than some other metropolitan areas, but times were still tough. Boulevard churches, with the help of local merchants and farmers, sponsored soup kitchens and clothing drives to help the needy.

The Brookline Savings and Trust Company also came to the aid of it's customers by offering innovative financial services and consumer outreach programs.

As a community, Brookliners came together and endured the hardships of these lean years. The valuable skills learned and the social bonds formed in this difficult time would bear fruit once again in the early-1940s, during the frugal rationing years of World War II.

Brookline Boulevard, 1933.    Brookline Boulevard, 1933.
Two views of the Brookline Boulevard Commercial District in 1933, from near Glenarm Avenue (left) and Flatbush Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard Triangle Park

Despite the struggling economy of the Depression Years, the Brookline Joint Civic Committee was busy working on several initiatives to modernize and improve the community. One such project was to establish a permanent Veteran's Memorial to honor Brookline soldiers who fought in the Great War.

In 1932, as a result of the decline in home sales, the Freehold Real Estate Company closed their Brookline Boulevard office. The firm that did so much to further the development of the community retreated to their downtown office and put their landmark parcel of property, the "Boulevard Triangle," on the market.

1916 Map showing Boulevard Triangle.
A 1916 map showing the Boulevard Triangle. Chelton Avenue is still listed as Chelsea.
Like many Brookline streets, old plot maps still show the former Borough names.
Interestingly, when Brookline was formed in 1905, Chelsea Avenue and the
Boulevard Triangle were both located across the official border of
West Liberty Borough in neighboring Baldwin Township.

The uniquely situated lot was purchased by James McGaffin, a prominent local businessman and a member of the Civic Committee. On April 18, 1934, McGaffin sold the triangle to the city Department of Parks for $5750 with the intent of establishing a permanent memorial.

The land was officially designated in the municipal ledger as Brookline Boulevard Triangle Park. Shortly afterwards, the original cannon and white marble memorial were mounted and dedicated by members of Brookline's American Legion Post #540.

The original Cannon in 1942.
The original cannon at Brookline's Veteran's Memorial and members of American Legion Post #540 on October 13, 1942.

That first cannon, a 1906 47mm artillery piece, stood in the park for eight years, until another global conflict called it back into service. In October 1942, Brookline's cannon was donated to Jones and Laughlin Steel to be melted down during a World War II scrap metal drive.

After the war, the park received a new cannon, this time a 1917 155mm Schneider howitzer. Made in France, the model was the standard field artillery piece of the American Expeditionary Force. In June 1946, the Triangle Park was re-dedicated to veterans of both World Wars.

Finally, in 1992, the aging marble memorial was replaced with a polished pink granite and bronze memorial honoring soldiers of all conflicts. The cannon itself, a reminder of the Great War, has been one of the most iconic features along Brookline Boulevard for the past eighty years.

The Cannon - 1970s.
Veteran's Memorial Park and the Brookline Cannon in the 1970s. The original white marble monument is partially visible.

Modernization Of Brookline Boulevard

One of the major goals of the Joint Civic Committee was the modernization of Brookline Boulevard as a whole. The community had outgrown the antiquated road conditions that existed at the time. Increasing vehicular, rail and pedestrian traffic had created serious safety concerns. The time had come for the boulevard to undergo it's first extreme makeover.

Proposals called for a wide range of infrastructure improvements, repaving the entire boulevard to include four traffic lanes from Pioneer to Edgebrook, and rerouting the western end of the road onto the trolley right-of-way to create a continuous four-lane thoroughfare all the way to West Liberty Avenue. The project sat idle while authorities lobbied for funding.

Brookline Map from 1928,
showing the old traffic pattern.
In 1935 the Boulevard was rerouted
onto the railway line right-of-way.
A 1928 map showing the former alignment of Brookline Boulevard from West Liberty Avenue to Pioneer Avenue
and the Pittsburgh Railways 39-Brookline streetcar right-of-way looping through the Fleming Place Plan.

In 1935, as the Nation's economy began to emerge from the Depression Era, federal dollars began to flow through New Deal programs like the Works Project Administration. That fall, work finally began on a major reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard.

The entire roadway was resurfaced in red and gray paving bricks, including the trolley right of way along the center. The tracks remained, and streetcars now shared the middle lanes with an ever-growing number of autombiles and trucks. Sewers, sidewalks, lighting and other utilities were replaced, along with other upgrades.

The intersection of Pioneer Avenue was completely rebuilt. Knowing that the home located on the corner of Pioneer and Brookline Boulevard, the former office of Dr. Lang, stood in the path of the expanded intersection, homeowner J.P. Meyers made the decision that rather than demolish the home, he would move it.

A home at the corner of Brookline Boulevard
(Bodkin Street) and Pioneer Avenue in 1909.
The home that once stood on the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Brookline Boulevard, shown here in 1909, was moved
in 1932 to an adjacent lot on Berkshire Avenue in preparation for the 1935 reconstruction project.

In 1932, anticipating the upcoming reconstruction Myers purchased the small frame house at the corner of Pioneer and Berkshire Avenue and had it razed. Contractors then moved his home across the alleyway (Trelona) and placed it on the vacant lot.

Myers then constructed a small gas and service station on the truncated lot where his house once stood. The old home and the gas station building, in later years a pizza shop, stood until 1999, when both were demolished during construction of the present-day CVS Pharmacy.

The biggest change to Brookline Boulevard during this reconstruction project was the creation of the boulevard loop. The roadway was rerouted onto the Pittsburgh Railways right-of-way, which looped through the Fleming Place properties to the Brookline Junction.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - November 1935.    Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - November 1935.
The corner of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue in 1935 (left) during reconstruction. In the distance is the estate
of David Hunter, one of West Liberty's early landowners. It was razed in the 1940s to build an apartment complex.
The photo to the right shows the retaining wall that was built below the Jillson and Shawhan Avenue intersection.

A Brookline trolley on the loop in 1945.
When completed, the new Brookline Boulevard Loop was a fine four-lane gateway into the community.

The path was widened to accomodate four lanes of traffic and the surface was paved in belgian block. The streetcar tracks were placed in the center along the length of the street and connected with the Mount Lebanon line at West Liberty Avenue.

New sidewalks and a decorative steel guard rail were installed. Below the corner of Jillson and Shawhan Avenues, both of which were cut off during construction, a small retaining wall was built. Sixty years later that same wall would become the canvas for a familiar community welcome sign, the Brookline Mural.

By the fall of 1936, when the project ended, Brookline Boulevard had been transformed into a modern main street. The stunning stunning results were a major improvement that helped bring growth and prosperity to the boulevard and the community as a whole.

Looking towards the Brookline Junction
with West Liberty Avenue in 1936.    A vehicle in the one-hour parking zone
across from Wedgemere Avenue in 1936.
A beer delivery (left), and two shop owners having a chat along the 500 block of Brookline Boulevard in 1936.

A view towards the Pioneer Avenue intersection in 1936.
A view towards the Pioneer Avenue Car Stop and loading platform in 1936. The home is along Bodkin Street.

It's Now Called Bodkin Street

Another big change that occured during the Boulevard Reconstruction Project of 1935/1936 was the creation of a new street, in a manner of speaking.

The realignment of the Pioneer Avenue intersection required the building of a large retaining wall that cut off the former western length of the main street. The old boulevard became a dead end that extended from the wall to the lower end of the new boulevard at West Liberty Avenue.

A short flight of city steps were built from Pioneer Avenue down to the existing street level to provide stranded Bodkin Street residents with access to the trolley car stop.

When Brookline Boulevard was rerouted onto the new loop, the portion of the street that was cut off and no longer part of the main drag, needed a new street designation. In July of 1935 City Council enacted a series of ordinances delineating the new footprint of streets like Shawhan, Edgevale, and Kenilworth Avenues, all redesigned during the project.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - November 1935.
The retaining wall built during the 1935 reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard. The former section
of Brookline Boulevard now stood cut off to the right. It was now a distinct street in need of a name.

One of those ordinances dealt with this former length of Brookline Boulevard. On that day in July 1935, City Council ordained that it would become part of Wenzell Avenue, as it was long ago during the St. Clair Township days, and carry that name. Sometime later it was decided to give this roadway its own distinct name, and from thence forth it has been designated as Bodkin Street on city maps.

This was the fourth and final name change for this vintage stretch of South Hills roadway, which was one of the earliest on record. Originally it was a township road stretching from the state road (Pioneer Avenue) all the way to Greentree Road. It was called Wenzell Avenue. During the borough days, from 1876 to 1905 it was called Hunter Avenue. From 1905 to 1936 it was Brookline Boulevard. From 1936 until the present-day it has been called Bodkin Street.

Other major achievements of the Joint Civic Committee in the late-1930s were community advancements in education and recreation. The increasing student population was served by the construction of Carmalt (1937) and West Liberty (1939) Elementary Schools. The lack of a public recreation facility ended with the creation of Moore Park, another Works Project Administration contribution that opened in 1940.

The Proposed Eastern Extension

Another of the Joint Civic Committee initiatives pursued in the late-1930s that met with less success was the construction of an Eastern Extension of the boulevard, designed to link up with Saw Mill Run Boulevard.

The Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction Project only covered the roadway from West Liberty Avenue to the Edgebrook Avenue intersection. From that point on to Breining Street was still restricted to one lane in each direction, with the trolley line running down the center. From Breining to Jacob Street the road was further reduced to a narrow two-lane residential drive.

View of Brookline Boulevard - 1951
Brookline Boulevard in 1951 looking east towards the Breining Street intersection and the start of the two-lane residential
section of the roadway. Maps dating to 1916 show an alternate route that veared to the right into the valley.

Advocates argued that the lower end of the boulevard was never designed to be the main street, and the lack of a continuous four-lane thoroughfare was prohibitive to the future growth of the community. In addition to a number of safety concerns, the committee's proposal was intended to "make the boulevard go somewhere."

The planned boulevard extension would follow the course of the existing Pittsburgh Railways right-of-way through the Fairhaven Valley. This path served as the original 39-Brookline trolley route from 1905 to 1909.

Brookline Boulevard Proposal, 1949

The broad avenue would pass through the Brookdale housing tract, scheduled to be constructed in the undeveloped wooded section of the community, and meet Saw Mill Run Boulevard at a point near Overbrook School. City plot maps dating back to 1916 actually identify this route as the anticipated path of Brookline Boulevard.

Although the proposal came highly recommended by local civic leaders, it did not have the endorsement of City Council and the project was shelved. Although consigned to the drawing board, the Eastern Extension issue remained in the news for the next three decades.

A 1951 editorial cartoon that appeared in the Brookline Journal describing
the boulevard conditions to the east of Edgebrook Avenue.

Some adjustments were made in the mid-1950s to address pedestrian and vehicle safety concerns, most notably the removal of the metal white-striped utility poles that lined the boulevard from Edgebrook to Breining Street. These poles, which supported the trolley line, were the cause of several vehicle accidents.

Other concerns such as paving the road weren't addressed until 1966, when the trolley right-of-way was paved from Edgebrook to Breining, widening the road to four unobstructed lanes. From Breining on, the roadway has never been altered.

By the 1970s, the once-popular concept had faded from memory. The abandonment of the Brookdale plan, an expansion of Brookline Memorial Park and the increasing traffic congestion along Saw Mill Run ended any prospect of an Eastern Extension.

The lower section of Brookline Boulevard,
near the Greencrest Drive intersection, in 1977.
The lower section of Brookline Boulevard, near the Roseville Street and Greencrest Drive intersection, shown here in 1982.

The Era Of Post-War Prosperity

During the war years, the only change to occur along the boulevard was the construction of the Carnegie Library branch location at 730 Brookline Boulevard. Elsewhere, merchants and residents throughout the community did their best to cope with the restrictions of rationing and their concern about the hundreds of local men and women serving overseas.

When the Second World War came to a conclusion, Brookline veterans returned home to a country that was entering an era of unprecedented economic growth. The same was true, on a smaller scale, right here in Brookline.

Grumet's Market - 1950. Owner Morris
Grumet is standing at the entrance.
Long-time merchant Morris Grumet stands outside of his Grocery Market, constructed at 1160 Brookline Boulevard in 1950.

Industry was booming in Pittsburgh and the working wage was on the rise. New home construction in the community reached levels not seen since the 1920s. Brookline's large middle-class population grew stronger as a result. There was plenty of money to spend, and Brookline Boulevard became the place to spread it around.

The Brookline Journal was a weekly newspaper that documented the life and times of the community from 1931 to 1982. Editions from the early-1950s give keen insight the life and times during these golden years.

1951 Review / Brookline Journal Collection ** 1952 Review / Brookline Journal Collection

DeBor Funeral Home - May 1951.
DeBor Funeral Home, at the corner of Edgebrook Avenue, had its grand opening on the weekend of April 20-22, 1951.
The family-owned parlor is one of the longest-standing commercial establishments on Brookline Boulevard.

This surge in retail sales led to a corresponding spike in commercial construction. Along merchant sector, the remaining vacant lots were soon the scene of new buildings.

The Premier Photo Shop building (present-day Carnegie Library), the A&P Super Market (present-day Pitaland) and the Brookline Post Office were all built in the fifties. The Brookline Savings and Trust Company building was expanded and modernized, as was Melman's Super Market. The United Presbyterian Church was enlarged for the third time.

New storefronts also appeared on the residential side of the street. Many homeowners built ground-level additions in the front of their property, creating additional merchant space. The decade also saw three new buildings rise along the 1100 block, including DeBor Funeral Home.

Brookline Savings and Trust - 1953
The Brookline Savings and Trust, at 818 Brookline Boulevard, in 1953. The successful financial institution played a major
role in the development of the community. It was purchased in 1969 and is presently a branch office of PNC Bank.

Beyond Edgebrook Avenue, on the lower stretch of the boulevard, Grumet's Market and Brookline Fabric Company both built new stores. The largest commercial development was the East Brookline Shopping Center, located at the corner of Breining Street. It featured a Super Market, laundramat, pharmacy and a beauty salon.

On the downside, the Boulevard Theatre, which was opened in 1937, closed it's doors in 1952. The building was bought by the Cedars of Lebanon as a lodge. It was the second local theatre to shutter its doors. The nearby Brookline Theatre ceased operation in 1945. The loss of these vintage movie houses were the only negatives in this era of post-war prosperity.

Johnson's Shoe Store - Shoe Horn
Johnson's Shoe Store was in operation
during the 1940s and 1950s.

Brookline Boulevard - An Outdoor Shopping Mall

In many ways, Brookline Boulevard had entered a Golden Age. By the end of the 1950s, there was practically nowhere left in the Commercial District on which to build and expand.

The grand roadway truly had become the centerpiece of the neighborhood, a vibrant, walkable outdoor shopping mall packed with a wide variety of stores and attractions that catered to almost every need of the local citizenry.

Brookline Boulevard, 1967
Brookline Boulevard in 1967, looking east from near the intersection with Castlegate Avenue. The Commercial District
was a thriving market place with a wide variety of stores and attractions to serve the community.

Along the main street were a number of grocery and meat markets, toy stores, hardware stores, gift shops, doctor's and dentist's offices, soda shops and pharmacies. There was a furniture store and separate clothing outlets for men, women and children.

Among the storefronts were bakeries, barber shops, appliance stores, repair shops, bowling alleys, pool halls, restaurants, bars, tailors, dry cleaners, banquet halls, night clubs, gas stations, realtors, a sporting goods store and much more.

Two trolleys pass at Flatbush Avenue in 1965.
Two trolley cars, one inbound and one outbound, pass near Flatbush Avenue along Brookline Boulevard in 1965.

For travelers and commuters, the 39-Brookline streetcar could take you from one end of the boulevard to the other, or reach out to all corners of the city of Pittsburgh.

By 1965 the population of Brookline had swelled to a peak of nearly 22,000 residents, the majority of whom did their shopping within minutes of home. The happy times of the 1950s and early-1960s could be considered the 20th Century zenith of Brookline Boulevard.

The Neighborhood Parade Ground

On holidays and special occasions, Brookline Boulevard has always served as the main location for parades and community celebrations. For many years, the Independence Day Parade was one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year.

In the earliest days of the community, a procession of bands, dance troupes, horse-drawn wagons, vintage automobiles, church groups and local dignitaries would make their way towards Pioneer Avenue on the 4th of July.

Fourth of July Parade - 1954    The Memorial Day Parade - 2012
The Independence Day Parade in 1954 (left) and the Memorial Day Parade in 2012.

Afterwards, parade-goers would gather along the boulevard. Fireworks displays were followed by an evening of moving-pictures. Residents would sit on open ground along the high side of the boulevard near Flatbush Avenue and the movies would be projected onto bedsheets strung from poles on the commercial side.

Boulevard Parade - 1942
Majorettes prepare for a War Bond Parade in October 1942.

As the years progressed, the parade route was extended to Brookline Elementary, where the community festival and fireworks display was held on the school field. Later, these activities were moved to Moore Park.

♦ 1:15 Minute Video of 1960s-era Memorial Day Parade ♦
Jack Frank Films

The Independence Day parades came to an end in the 1960s. They were just one of several held along Brookline Boulevard over the years. The annual Memorial Day Parade began in 1934 and has continued until the present-day. During World War II, parades were held during the many War Bond Drives.

Boulevard Parade - 1992
Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff walks along with Charlie McLaughlin and
State Senator Mike Dawida during the Halloween Parade in 1992.

Other parades during the year are the Chamber of Commerce Halloween Parade and the Brookline Little League Parade. On occasion, special parades have been held, such as in 1965 when a fundraiser was held for Brookline Park, and in 1976 for the Bicentennial celebration.

Community Center fundraising kickoff
parade on Brookline Boulevard, July 1965    The Little League Parade in May 1976.
Resurrection's Cub Scout Pack 106-601 passes Triangle Park on their way to Brookline Park during a 1965 fundraising
event (left), and ballplayers follow the stars and stripes during the annual Little League parade in 1976.

Streetcar Service Discontinued

For sixty-one long years, the primary method of public transportation in the neighborhood was the 39-Brookline trolley, which had been in operation since the birth of the community in 1905. In September of 1966 the high-speed railway that had spurred the initial formation of Brookline came to an end. Once part of the Pittsburgh Railways Company and now operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the route was discontinued in favor of expanded bus service.

Along with this came a change in the route designation to 41-Brookline. Although the loss of the popular rail line was decried among many in the community, the change did give impetus to some much needed boulevard upgrades.

Outbound 39-Brookline moves along the
boulevard in the direction of Flatbush Avenue.
An outbound 39-Brookline moves along the 700-block of Brookline Boulevard, approaching the Flatbush Avenue Car Stop.

From Pioneer Avenue to Edgebrook Avenue, the boulevard was completely repaved with asphalt. This gave motorists a smooth, relatively noiseless ride for the first time. Also, the removal of the web-like grid of electrical guidelines was a welcome side effect, clearing away much of the overhead clutter that obscured the visual beauty of Brookline's main street.

A major benefit to East Brookline residents was the removal of the tracks from Edgebrook to Breining Street and the subsequent paving and widening of that stretch of the boulevard. This was an improvement the community had been waiting for since the glory days of the Joint Civic Committee in the 1930s.

An outbound Brookline trolley
approaching Queensboro Avenue in 1965.
An outbound Brookline trolley at the Queensboro Avenue crosswalk in 1965.

In 1975, the remaining tracks that ran from Breining east to the trolley loop were removed during an expansion of Brookline Park. On the other end of the boulevard, along the western loop from Pioneer to West Liberty Avenue, the belgian block road surface and streetcar tracks remained in place until the early-1980s.

Over the years, the Brookline bus service has proven to be a convenient, safe and reliable transportation alternative for downtown commuters. And, like the trolley service before it, the network of bus routes reached out to all points in Pittsburgh.

The 39-Brookline trolley heads towards
the loop at the lower end of the Boulevard.
It has just passed Breining Street in the
background and is positioned at the bottom
of Birchland Street.
An outbound 39-Brookline trolley passes Birchland Street on its way to the loop, in 1966. When streetcar service
was discontinued, the right-of-way from Breining to Edgebrook was completely paved for vehicular traffic.

Nostalgic streetcar enthusiasts who still yearned to ride the rails were delighted when, in 2004, a modern light rail station was installed in Brookline along the Shannon route. Known as South Bank Station, the loading platform is located off of Jacob Street in East Brookline.

Another link to Brookline's streetcar heritage was restored in 2011, when during a restructuring of existing bus services, the Port Authority changed the local route designation back to the traditional 39-Brookline.

The Turbulence Of The Late-Sixties

The late-1960s were an interesting and confusing time in America, as well as here in Brookline. While the Beatles ushered in the Summer of Love and the psychedelic years in 1967, an undercurrent of discontent and angst filtered through the younger generation.

Belmar Candies - May 1965.
Belmar Candy Company, across from the cannon and veteran's memorial, on May 25, 1965.

The counter-culture movement and rebellious vibe led to increased drug activity and crime. This soon evolved into a nagging problem within in the community. The city responded with an increased police presence along the boulevard.

Along with heightened racial tensions and resentment over America's role in the Vietnam War came an upsurge of illicit and disruptive behavior. The boulevard and rear alleyways gained a conspicuous reputation as a rather shady area in the evening hours.

Foodland on Brookline Boulevard - 1967
The Foodland Super Market on Brookline Boulevard in 1967. This is the location of present-day Pitaland Bakery.

Due to the diligence of the citizenry and the bold actions of law enforcement officials, the problem never reached alarming proportions. Brookline has traditionally been a community that rallies together to combat crime. This was a time that best illustrates that cooperation.

Showing Signs Of Age In The Super Seventies

The decade of the 1970s were a difficult time for the Steel City. Although the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers combined to give Pittsburgh the honorary title "The City of Champions," beneath the exhultation shown our beloved hometown baseball and football teams laid the bitter struggles of a region losing it's true identity.

The once imposing steel industry, described by publishers as "Hell With The Lid Off," was in the midst of a decline that would ultimately lead to it's demise in Pittsburgh. The burgeoning steel crisis, and other setbacks in the corporate and industrial base, left Pittsburghers to watch helplessly as the city faced the loss of its national image.

Bicentennial License Plate - 1976.

Despite the splendor and pageantry of the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the nation itself was suffering from the sting of a prolonged recession. Political corruption was front page news and the lasting effects of the Vietnam War left the country bitter and divided.

Here in Brookline, the seventies were a also time of change. On the upside, long-awaited improvements were being made to Brookline Park. On the downside, the economic slide forced many residents to move out of the area and compelled others to adjust their spending habits. This put strain on the boulevard merchant sector.

Brookline's once magnificent and modern boulevard was beginning to show signs of old age. To make matters worse, impressions of inner city blight and tension began to creep into the fabric of the neighborhood.

Fire on Brookline Boulevard - 1973
Firemen inspect damage to the Brookline News Agency, Tryson's Shoes, Sesto's Barber Shop and Zitelli's Boulevard
Gardens after a fire on May 31, 1973. Also suffering minor damage in the blaze was Melman's Super Market.

One disaster that left an indelible mark on the boulevard was a fire on May 31, 1973. The blaze burned out of control for two hours, destroying two buildings and damaging three others. Claims totaled over $75,000. The lots were cleared and remained vacant for eight years.

By the latter part of the Super Seventies, the once-thriving East Brookline Shopping Center had been all but shuttered. Another devastating fire had done irreparable damage to much of the structure and only a convenient store was still in operation. Graffiti, litter and boarded windows foretold the imminent closure of that neighborhood landmark.

The East Brookline Shopping Center.
The East Brookline Shopping Center was a popular destination for those living in the 32nd Ward since the 1940s.
Shown here in the mid-1970s, the complex was razed in 1980 for construction of an apartment building.
Also shown are long-time boulevard establishments Mary and Bob's Restaurant and Jay's Hardware.

The late-seventies saw the beginning of a downturn in the fortunes of Brookline Boulevard. By the end of the decade, the local population had declined by over 4000 residents. Throughout the community, "For Sale" signs were becoming a common site and there were already a handful of vacant storefronts along the boulevard.

One regional development that, in the near future, would have a profound effect on the local Commercial District was the 1979 opening of Century III Mall in West Mifflin.

Located only a short drive from Brookline, the modern shopping mall, and the sprawling retail complex that grew around it, led to a major shift in consumer spending. The small business community would soon experience the lasting effects of this national trend. Although Brookline's commercial district was still thriving there was trouble on the horizon.

A collage of Brookline businesses as seen in 1975.

A Resurgence Of Pride In The Early-1980s

The final two decades of the 20th Century were a time of both highs and lows. These years began with a flurry of positive energy. Through the hard work and dedication of the Brookline Area Community Council and the Chamber of Commerce, the neighborhood was recovering from the turbulence and neglect of the past several years.

Brookline Boulevard was the scene of two major construction projects. In 1982, both the Mazza Pavilion and the Parkside Manor senior highrise apartments opened their doors to new tenants. The Mazza building occupied the vacant lots along the 900-block and Parkside was built on the site of the former East Brookline Shopping Center.

Members of the Brookline Area Community Council in 1982
looking over an informational pamphlet on Brookline.
Members of the Brookline Area Community Council in 1982 looking over
an informational pamphlet on the Community of Brookline.

That was also the year that the extensive decade-long renovation of Brookline Park, along the 1400 block, was finally completed. The public recreation facility now included a large multi-purpose field, two Little League baseball fields, a swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, playground, abundant greenspace and a state-of-the-art Activities Building.

Brookline Boulevard was milled and paved for the first time in fifteen years, along with some minor infrastructure improvements. Several merchants seized the moment and remodeled the interior and exterior facade of their aging storefronts.

The new road surface and facade improvements, along with Brookline's glimmering new park and modern apartment buildings were a breath of fresh air all along the formerly stagnating boulevard. T-Shirts printed by the Community Council and available at merchant locations during that time period proudly proclaimed Brookline as a "Special Place."

A view along Brookline Boulevard, looking
from near Glenarm Avenue in 1985.
A view along the Brookline Boulevard Commercial District, looking from near Glenarm Avenue in 1985.

To celebrate this resurgence of community spirit throughout the neighborhood, a festival was held in Brookline Park in June, and the inaugural Brookline Breeze 5K Fitness Run was held on September 3, 1982. Both events were very successful. The Junefests continued until 1986 while the Brookline Breeze celebrated its 38th running in August 2019.

For many years the Brookline Chamber of Commerce held an annual sidewalk sale along the boulevard. When the Brookline Breeze began in 1982, the Chamber scheduled the sidewalk sale to coincide with race weekend. Along with the race day bargain bonanza was a three-day schedule of events that became one of the highlights of the summer season.

Today, the event is called the Boulevard Breezefest, a sidewalk sale and community celebration featuring a variety of attractions. Below is an advertisement that ran in the Pittsburgh Press on August 11, 1988, announcing "Happy Days" along Brookline Boulevard.

Ad for the Chamber of Commerce Sidewalk Sale - 1988.

Big Business Versus Small Business

Despite the upbeat mood of the early-1980s, negative undercurrents were beginning to swirl and would soon begin to tug at the very fabric and makeup of the boulevard Commercial District.

The success of the suburban shopping centers and the dawn of the super-stores began to take a heavy toll on many of the local small business owners along the boulevard.

Some of the hardest hit were the hardware stores, grocers, clothing outlets and appliance stores. The small businessman in many instances was unable to compete with the large volume franchise stores. As a result, retail sales at boulevard merchants plummeted as local shoppers migrated to the suburbs in search of bigger selections and better deals.

Brookline Boulevard Panorama - 1985. Photos by
Michael Haritan.
A panoramic view of Brookline Boulevard in 1985 -- Photos by Michael Haritan.

In the latter part of the 1980s, a succession of long-standing boulevard businesses were forced to close their doors. While the number of vacant storefronts continued to rise, community organizations searched for answers to stop the downward trend.

Establishments that did well during these changing times were specialty retailers, bars, restaurants, pizza shops and other service-oriented stores.

During these lean years, the solution seemed elusive, and concerned citizens watched as their once-vibrant boulevard slipped rapidly into a distressed state. Meanshile, the Chamber of Commerce clung to hopes of recovery and members did their best to weather the storm.

Brookline Boulevard Sunset - Painting by Robert Daley - 1990.

A 1990 painting by local artist Robert Daley of South Hills Art Center
entitled "A Boulevard Sunset."

A Time Of Renewed Hope

The downward trend continued into the final decade of the 20th Century. The population continued to drop as more and more families moved to homes in the suburbs. The exodus led to a further decline in appearances along the boulevard.

For the majority of Brookliners, life went on as usual. The nation's economy was on an upswing. However, the state of Brookline's main street was in doubt. The Chamber of Commerce, along with other community action groups and city officials, searched for ideas to bring new life to Brookline's struggling commercial center.

Brookline Blvd and Pioneer Ave - 1999    Brookline Blvd and Pioneer Ave - 2000
The construction of the CVS Pharmacy at Pioneer Avenue acted as a catalyst in the revitalization of Brookline Boulevard.

One significant change that took place in 1999 was the razing of the four buildings at the corner of Pioneer Avenue for the construction of a modern CVS Pharmacy. The new boulevard attraction was to be the western anchor in the revitalization of the merchant sector.

It was unanimously agreed that the boulevard was the beating heart of the community. Over 4000 vehicles, and hundreds of pedestrians, passed by the commercial district on a daily basis. The success or decline of the boulevard would set the tone for the rest of the neighborhood.

Sixty years had passed since the last major overhaul of the boulevard had taken place. The roadway conditions were becoming a source of frustration and the basic infrastructure was crumbling. This was a deterent to new investment and became the primary focus of attention.

Intersection of Brookline Boulevard and
Pioneer Avenue before reconstruction    Intersection of Brookline Boulevard and
Pioneer Avenue after reconstruction
Sketches showing the planned redesign of the Pioneer Avenue/Brookline Boulevard intersection. These preliminary
drawings show only a portion of the proposed refurbishment of the boulevard commercial district.

After much deliberation, and assistance from city and state officials, plans were put on paper that outlined an initiative that would dramatically change the look of Brookline Boulevard.

As the clocks ticked towards the dawn of the 21st Century, it was a time of renewed hope for Brookline Boulevard and the entire neighborhood.

The New Millenium Brings Positive Change

The path to recovery began in the Spring of 2000, when design plans were presented for a complete reconstruction of Brookline Boulevard. City Councilman Michael Diven worked to secure federal funding to cover the cost of the multi-million dollar project.

The South Pittsburgh Development Corporation, a neighborhood community-action volunteer organization, took the lead on the initiative and, together with the Urban Renewal Authority, secured grant money to assist shop owners to refurbish their storefront facades.

Brookline Boulevard near Glenarm Street
during the Autumn Moon Festival - Sept 2000.
Brookline Boulevard was full of vendors and party-goers during the Autumn Moon Festival in September 2000.

Positive changes were beginning to take place, and for the first time in several years, there was an influx of new merchants setting up shop in long-vacant storefronts. Many older establishments took advantage of the available grants and made improvements to their stores.

Just as the situation was beginning to improve, the City of Pittsburgh suffered a brief fiscal crisis. Funding for the boulevard reconstruction project was held in limbo while the city struggled to achieve financial stability.

Community groups came forward in 2009 with a joint effort to resurrect the project. With help from State Senator Wayne Fontana, State Representative Chelsa Wagner, and Pat Hassett of the City of Pittsburgh, the long-stalled initiative regained momentum.

Mazza Pavilion in 2011, completely rebuilt with
only the original steel frame remaining from before.
Brookline Boulevard in May of 2011, showing the reconstructed Frank Mazza Pavilion.

Another major building project was the refurbishment of the Mazza Pavilion apartment building. In 2004, the building was closed due to structural defects and was scheduled to be demolished. Instead, the Housing Authority approved a plan to reconstruct the building. Work began in 2010 and the glimmering new apartment complex reopened to tenants the following year.

It would be another four years before the massive boulevard reconstruction project would begin. In that time, work continued on attracting new investment to the main street. Signs of recovery could be seen all along the main street. Times were changing for the better in Brookline.

A mailman sorting through his cart during
a snowstorm along Brookline Boulevard.

The Boulevard Reconstruction Project

The long-awaited Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction Project began on February 25, 2013. During this monumental undertaking, the entire roadway, including sidewalks and infrastructure, was rebuilt. The construction zone stretched from Pioneer Avenue to Starkamp Avenue.

The $5.35 million project was scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2013. Merchants, pedestrians and motorists all suffered from the inconveniences encountered during the long construction period. They further chafed when it was announced that the completion date would be postponed until the Spring of 2014.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2013    Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2013
New utility lines were put in place and all of the sidewalks were replaced. Progress was slow but steady.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2013
The Brookline Chamber of Commerce reminds the community that small businesses remained open throughout the project.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2013    Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2013.
Work proceeds near that Castlegate Avenue intersection (left) and at Pioneer Avenue. Throughout the seventeen-month
construction period, contractors managed to maintain access to all of the merchant establishments and keep
traffic flowing along the boulevard. This was no small task considering the vast scope of the project.

On May 6, 2014, long-suffering motorists got a taste of good things to come when the lower end of the boulevard, from Starkamp Avenue to Birchland Street, was paved by the city. All around the neighborhood there was a growing wave of welcome relief among residents and merchants that the long and arduous journey was nearing its end.

Then, on June 28, in the final act of the seventeen-month reconstruction effort, crews arrived to begin laying a smooth layer of black top along the commercial district. Three weeks later, when the top coat of asphalt was sealed and the new lines painted, the transformation of Brookline Boulevard was complete. The results were splendid.

Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2014.    Brookline Boulevard Reconstruction - 2014.
Paving of the lower boulevard, near Whited Street (left), and the Commercial District at Starkamp Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard - July 24, 2014
Brookline's new boulevard, shown here on July 24, 2014, after the completion of the reconstruction project. The main
thoroughfare now features a unique blend of vintage 20th century architecture and modern 21st Century technology.

A Dedication Ceremony was held on July 24, 2014, attended by Mayor Bill Peduto, State Representative Erin Molchany, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, several local dignitaries and many others who had contributed to the project.

After over a decade of planning and many months of construction, Brookline Boulevard had taken on the look of an ultra-modern urban thoroughfare. In the Commercial District, all overhead wiring was removed and the amenities on ground level were new. Below ground, the water, electric and sewer lines were replaced.

Decorative landscaping was put in place and adjusted traffic patterns increased parking and pedestrian safety. All this was accomplished while retaining much of the vintage look of the old boulevard, further increasing the unique character and charm of this community jewel.

Brookline Boulevard, 2014.    Brookline Boulevard, 2014.
The boulevard as seen from atop the extended firehouse ladder truck, looking both directions from Castlegate Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard - The Heart Of It All

It was over 100 years ago that the West Liberty Improvement Company and the Freehold Real Estate Company gave birth to Brookline Boulevard as the main street around which the Community of Brookline would grow and proper.

During that century, Brookline has evolved into what many refer to as a "Suburb In The City." It has, and will continue to be, a great place to live and raise a family.

Today, the Commercial District along Brookline Boulevard is once again a vibrant center of activity. Since the reconstruction project, an influx of young professionals have brought investment dollars back into the community.

Our neighborhood Main Street has a long and distinguished history. Throughout its many years of service, for the generations of local residents whose fortunes have grown and thrived along with it, Brookline Boulevard has, and will continue to be, the heart of it all.

Sunrise in Brookline Boulevard - October 7, 2014.    Sunrise in Brookline Boulevard - October 7, 2014.
An Autumn sunrise as seen from the top of the Brookline firehouse tower on October 7, 2014.

Some Articles Featuring Brookline Boulevard

Post-Gazette - April 22, 2010:

"Brookline Neighborhood's Business District Is Just Right For A Food Walk"

Post-Gazette - August 11, 2010:

"Storytelling: Breezin' in Brookline - Memories from a Neighborhood Race"

Pop City - March 16, 2011:

"The Pop City Guide To Brookline"

Joe's Tavern Matchbook Cover    Joe's Tavern Sign

Post-Gazette - April 24, 2012:

"City Walkabout: Newcomers Find They Have Appetite For Busy Brookline"

Post-Gazette - January 17, 2013:

"Pittsburgh OKs Initial Funding To Rehabilitate Brookline Boulevard"

Post-Gazette - July 24, 2014:

"Brookline Boulevard Reopens, Business Owners Rejoice"

Illustration by Stacy Innerst - April 2012

Post-Gazette Illustration - Stacy Innerst

Premier Photo photo packet

Brookline Boulevard on a snowy
day in November of 2008.
The boulevard on a blustery late-autumn day, in November 2008, looking west from Triangle Park.

Links To Photos Of Brookline Boulevard
Past And Present

♦ Real Estate Ads (1904-1916)
♦ Trolley Service (1905-1966)
♦ The Brookline Plumber (1905-present)
♦ Dooley's Meat Market, 1907
♦ St. Mark Chapel, 1908
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1909
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1909
♦ Brookline Pharmacy, 1909
♦ Methodist Episcopal Church, 1909
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1910
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1911
♦ Independence Day, 1911
♦ View Towards The Boulevard, 1913
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1913
♦ Pioneer Avenue, 1915
♦ Brookline Blvd/W Liberty Ave, 1915
♦ Knowlson Methodist Church, 1915
♦ Harley Moving & Hauling, 1915
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1916
♦ Independence Day, 1916
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1920
♦ Independence Day, 1920
♦ Fleming Place Plan, 1921
♦ Boulevard Theatres (1921-1952)
♦ Real Estate Brochures (1921-1926)
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1926
♦ Methodist Episcopal Church, 1926
♦ New Building Construction, 1926
♦ Brookline Boulevard Map, 1928
♦ Independence Day, 1929
♦ Brookline Junction, 1930
♦ Carnegie Library (1930-present)
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1933
♦ Brookline News Agency, 1933
♦ Neuser's Market, 1933
♦ McRoberts' Amoco, 1933
♦ Blockinger's Mens Wear, 1933
♦ Several Brookline Markets, 1933
♦ Veterans Memorial (1934-present)
♦ Boulevard Reconstruction, 1935
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1936
♦ Angie's Barber Shop, 1937

♦ American Legion Hall, 1940
♦ The Original "Cannon", 1942
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 1942
♦ Brookline Boulevard Parade, 1943
♦ Neale's Repair Service, 1943
♦ Women's Bowling League, 1944
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 1945
♦ Brookline Library, 1947
♦ Brookline Post Office, 1947
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 1948
♦ Brookline Boulevard Carnival, 1948
♦ Junior Crime Spree, 1949
♦ Boulevard Extension, 1949
♦ Grumet's Market, 1950
♦ Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1951
♦ DeBor Funeral Home, 1951
♦ Ebbitt Studio, 1951
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1952
♦ Little League Parade, 1952
♦ Brookline Savings and Trust, 1952
♦ United Presbyterian Church, 1953
♦ Wreck on Brookline Boulevard, 1953
♦ Melman's Market, 1954
♦ Independence Day, 1954
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 1955
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1956
♦ Boulevard Merchant Listing, 1956
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1958
♦ Post Office Dedication, 1958
♦ Independence Day Video, 1959
♦ St. Mark Church, 1960
♦ The Parkside Grill, 1961
♦ Independence Day, 1961
♦ Wreck on Brookline Boulevard, 1962
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 1962
♦ Shulman's Dry Cleaning, 1962
♦ Independence Day, 1962
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 1963
♦ Community Center Parade, 1965
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1966
♦ Independence Day, 1966
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1967

A palette knife painting of Brookline Boulevard - circa 2000.
An impressionist palette knife oil painting of Brookline Boulevard by Pen King (circa 2000).

♦ 531 Brookline Boulevard, 1970
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1970
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 1972
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 1973
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1973
♦ Little League Parade, 1976
♦ Brookline Plumber, 1977
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1978
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1980
♦ Mazza Pavilion, 1981
♦ Parkside Manor Dedication, 1981
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1982
♦ The Cannon, 1982
♦ Stop-N-Go Mini-Mart, 1984
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 1985
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1985
♦ Brookline Breeze, 1987
♦ Sidewalk Sale, 1988
♦ Memorial Day Observance, 1989
♦ Bryant's Hardware (1927-1990)
♦ Hollywood in Brookline, 1990
♦ Nolan's Hardware, 1995
♦ The Brookline Mural, 1997
♦ Little League Parade, 1998
♦ Brookline Firehouse, 1998
♦ Autumn Moon Festival, 1999
♦ Halloween Parade, 1999
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 1999/2000
♦ Little League Parade, 2000
♦ Brookline Blvd/Pioneer Ave, 2000
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2000
♦ Autumn Moon Festival, 2000
♦ Boulevard Merchant Listing, 2001
♦ Carnegie Library Re-Opening, 2004
♦ View Towards East Brookline, 2004
♦ Little League Parade, 2005
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2006
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2007

♦ Little League Parade, 2008
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2008
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 2008
♦ Little League Parade, 2009
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2009
♦ Snowmageddon Blizzard, 2010
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 2010
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2010
♦ Little League Parade, 2011
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 2011
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2011
♦ The Firehouse Tower, 2011
♦ Mazza Pavilion, 2012
♦ Little League Parade, 2012
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 2012
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2012
♦ Snowy December Day, 2012
♦ Little League Parade, 2013
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2013
♦ Boulevard Reconstruction 1, 2013
♦ Fire on Brookline Boulevard, 2014
♦ Paving Brookline Boulevard, 2014
♦ Boulevard Reconstruction 2, 2014
♦ Brookline Breeze, 2014
♦ Aerial View Of Boulevard, 2014
♦ Brookline Unveiled Festival, 2014
♦ Halloween Parade, 2014
♦ Brookline As Seen From Above, 2014
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 2016
♦ Little League Parade, 2016
♦ Bus Wreck on the Boulevard, 2017
♦ Repainting the Brookline Mural, 2017
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 2018
♦ Police Mounted Unit, 2018
♦ Memorial Day Parade, 2019
♦ Honor Roll Dedication, 2019
♦ Brookline Boulevard, 2020

Brookline Boulevard at dusk on 9/11/19.
The lights of Brookline Boulevard glimmer at dusk on September 11, 2019.

♦ More Random Images Of Brookline Boulevard ♦

A Short, But Sweet, Drone Video

Spread your wings and take a two minute flight above Brookline.

Brookline Video - 2014

* Photos and video courtesy of Matt Lackner *

If you have any old photos of Brookline Boulevard that you would like to share with us and
have presented here, please contact us through our
guestbook located on the homepage
... or you can send us a message via our
Brookline Connection facebook page.


* The History Of Brookline Boulevard * - by Clint Burton
Last Updated: September 6, 2023

It's a Holly Jolly Pawsburgh Christmas and a Furry Happy New Year

Some photos just get it right. This picture by Amy Sea Fisher (aka Mrs. Pawsburgh), taken on
December 16, 2020, captures the beauty of Christmas lighting along Brookline Boulevard,
accented by a Nor'easter snowfall. Not even the Coronavirus could dampen the
Christmas spirit in Brookline, especially after a ten inch blanket of snow!
The wintry vista makes a fine setting for a holiday greeting card.

Brookline Boulevard - December 16, 2020.

All Aboard!

A classic print by renowned local artist Dino Guarino showing a Brookline Boulevard scene
near the Brookline Engine House and Foodland Grocery Store (circa 1965).

This is a painting done by renowned Brookline artist
Dino Guarino showing a 1960s Brookline Boulevard scene.

<Brookline History>