A Brief History of Forest Hills

Note:  for a unique look at Forest Hills history click on the picture below to find links that lead to excerpts from the 1969 Forest Hills Golden Jubilee booklet.  The picture is a copy of the cover of the original booklet.


1969 Golden Jubilee Booklet Cover
Soon after the Forbes expedition in 1758 and the building of Fort Pitt, settlers began taking grants all through the land that is now Forest Hills and its surrounding territory. These tracts or grants of about 300 acres were given names. This area was known as "Summerset" and was acquired by David Gilliland in two lots. One lot of 300 acre lots was granted to Gilliland by court order in Pittsburgh in 1817 for $900. Parts of present day Forest Hills were also contained in the Shield's tract (to the north), the David Soles' tract (to the south), and the original grant to Rodarmel to the west. 

In 1788, Allegheny County, formed from parts of Westmoreland and Washington Counties, was divided into townships. This area was Pitt Township until 1812 when Pitt was divided and this section became Wilkins Township. Again subdivided in 1855, part of the current Forest Hills area remained in Wilkins Township and part joined Braddock Township. Residents of this area felt they were paying considerable sums in taxes and receiving few benefits; therefore representatives from all sections began meeting with the intention of establishing a borough. A main problem was the maintenance of Lincoln Highway ( Route #30 ), but after two years it was taken over by the County. Wilkins and Braddock Townships were bitterly opposed to the removal of this area from them, but they were unsuccessful in court action and on July 29, 1919, Forest Hills was incorporated as a borough. At that time Forest Hills had a population of about eight hundred and fifty people and an assessed tax valuation of approximately one half million dollars. Growth has been gradual but steady, with the Borough's population now over 6,800 people and with an assessed valuation of more than 40 million dollars.

The Great Stage Road,now the Greensburg Pike, was a toll road and part of the main highway from Philadelphia.The Pittsburgh Gazette of January 27,1816 gives an account of 5,800 covered wagons plus stages and mail coaches traveling the road in one year.

In the 1860 there were four homes in the Forest Hills Valley area. Some time after 1860, coal mining began and about 1870 the Armstrong Mine of the Duquesne Coal Company was well established. By 1905 the coal had been largely mined out and, beginning at East Pittsburgh, Ardmore Boulevard and the street railway were cut through. The opening of the street railway in 1910 induced more families to move into this area. The Freehold Real Estate Company had begun home development in the Ardmore Section in 1907; the Bryn Mawr section was begun in 1910.

By 1913, electric, gas, telephone and water service had been established throughout the borough; in 1922 the present Borough Building was built at the corner of Marion Avenue and Ardmore Boulevard. Starting with one policeman, and later, one fireman.

The first Burgess was John France, who was succeeded at his death by Lee Wiser, president of council. A. L. Koch was then elected Burgess and completed six terms for a total of twenty-four years. Mr. Koch was succeeded by Richard E. Wise in 1966, Robert Disney in 1974, Alfred A. McCloy in 1982, Elmer I. Incheck in 1986, all elected Mayors.

In the beginning, as today, Forest Hills had seven councilmen. The first men to hold these positions were E. R. Ray, President; A. L. Koch, E. L. Stewart, J. H. Reed, I W. Brown, A. C. Streamer and J. W. Kennedy. At that time it was felt that each section - Ardmore, Westinghouse Plan, Rockwood, Woodland Hills, Edgewood Acres, and Bryn Mawr should have Council representation.

In 1936, an area adjacent to Braddock Road and Ardmore Boulevard, was acquired for the Forest Hills Park, with the legal provision that this property belonged to the taxpayers of the Borough and can never be sold without their consent. Public spirited groups assisted in the landscaping and equipping this park The biggest event of the year there is the Annual Community Day on the Fourth of July sponsored by the Civic Association with the cooperation of various clubs of the Borough. In the last few years many physical improvements have been made and for the 1968 summer season the swimming pool and Recreation Lodge were opened. The tennis courts were opened in 1975. In 1982, major improvements to Forest hills Park were completed.

Koch Park, honoring former Mayor Koch, was given to the Borough by Roland S. Catarinella in 1964 and dedicated in 1973. Located at the end of Atlantic Avenue, it has two baseball fields, equipped play areas, and a picnic shelter. The Borough, with state aid, purchased twenty acres north of Avenue L, which will be left in its natural state, except for some cleared trails and a small Tot-Lot. In 1964, Mrs. Alice Bright Stott gave the Borough a small park for young children located in Bryn Mawr and named Bright Park in honor of her father. It has been installed with play equipment. The latest park to be added is 2.5 acres near the Presbyterian Church called Cascade Glen, purchased with state aid. Cascade Glen in 1982, in memory of Councilman Paul Ryan was renamed Ryan Glen Park. Cliffwood Park, in the Rockwood Area, was deeded to the Borough in 1973. The total park area in the Borough now exceeds fifty acres.

The first schoolhouse was Woodside School, built in 1914 to replace a two-room frame building at Glasgow and Braddock Roads which Forest Hills had inherited from Braddock Township. Atlantic Avenue School was erected in 1921 and Hawthorne School in 1922. Several additions have been made to these schools as the population increased. In 1948 the Junior High School was built after a fire had occurred at Atlantic Avenue School in 1946. In 1966 an addition to the Junior High doubled its capacity.

The Woodland Hills School District, of which Forest Hills schools are a part, constructed a four million dollar Senior High School for opening in 1963. The first class was graduated in 1965. Woodland Hills merger, which included Forest Hills and eleven other communities, was implemented in 1982. Today, due to the merger of the Woodland Hills School district, Forest Hills no longer has any public schools within its boundaries.

Copied, with updates, from the The Forest Hills Directory 1996-1997 (14th ed)
which was compiled and edited by The Rotary Club of Forest Hills and The Forest Hills Republican Committee