Cross Creek family’s lawn ornaments really ‘rock’
Kevin Brownlee looks on as his son Colton points out one of the inscriptions made on one of the sandstone boulders on their property. Brownlee said the aged markings were likely made by students of the 19th-century schoolhouse that once stood near their home.
Photos by Aaron Kendeall Observer-Reporter
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At right, large, car-sized sandstone boulders litter the Brownlees’ property. Kevin Brownlee said a rock quarry in the area provided stone for many of the buildings built in downtown Pittsburgh in the 1800s.
Kevin Brownlee’s yard has some really noticeable lawn ornaments.
The residence he shares with his wife, Jill, and their two sons, Taylor and Colton, is also home to a number of enormous sandstone boulders that are a natural feature of their Cross Creek property.
“When we bought this property, I was amazed,” Kevin Brownlee said. “As a kid, we had a hunting cabin in Brockway, but I’ve never seen boulders around here.”
The Brownlee home rests on the site of the former Bushy Rock School, a one-room schoolhouse built in the 1800s. It’s likely that the large rock is where the school got its name. It’s also possible that the worn-down initials chiseled into the stone were the inscriptions of pupils who studied there many years ago.
Brownlee said local lore places an old stone quarry near the site, as well.
“They say a lot of the buildings in Pittsburgh were built from stones from around here,” Brownlee said.
The Brownlee family moved to the property in 1991, when the plot was just a stretch of woods. Building his house on top of a gravel pit came with its own list of problems. “You can’t stick a shovel in the ground anywhere around here without hitting stone,” Brownlee said.
In order to build the foundation of his home, Brownlee said he had to use something called a wheel weight, a large, round concrete slab weighing one ton, to break up an unearthed boulder. A neighbor used an excavator to lift the slab up and drop it on the rock over and over until it broke into small enough pieces to move.
“The excavator thought we were going to have to use dynamite to blast,” Brownlee said. “I still remember it. That was a long night.”
Growing up on the land his whole life, Colton Brownlee said he’s grown accustomed to the boulders.
“Some of my friends noticed them, but after a while it was just normal,” Colton said. “I know the cats love to climb on them.”
The family felines aren’t the only ones to appreciate the rock formations.
“This is a real popular place to take prom pictures,” Kevin Brownlee said.
Brownlee said the geographical features of his lawn also brings curious passersby to his doorstep.
“People will stop in on a Sunday afternoon and ask questions sometimes,” Brownlee said. “I usually say, ‘I don’t know what to tell you, they were just here.’”