As I was riding a city bus yesterday, I noticed a patch of brick road when we stopped at an intersection. Not sure if it was in Vancouver or Burnaby, but I just stared at it. The other side of the street was paved and it seemed like the old brick was just peeping out. It was beautiful. As I gazed at it, I wondered about the formula that was used to make them because I have a heckuva time with terra cotta bricks here because of the freezing and thawing cycle in winter and spring. Chunks of brick just slough off. Brick used in the “olden days” must have been made out of materials that could withstand both heavy weight and varying climates. However, the old formulas must be in use once again, because it turns out that brick roads are making a comeback in the United States. I hope it catches on here…. Evidently, many cities and towns have decided to turn back the clock in an effort to have more old-fashioned looking burgs. While I seldom read USA Today, I did come across an article by Emma Schwartz that is very good. She writes about a town, Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, where “residents celebrate the city’s old brick streets with an annual ‘Brickfest.’” Amazing and heartening in one! According to Schwartz, brick streets have a 50-year lifespan and repairs can be easily done by replacing specific bricks. Yet, what are we investing our road dollars in? And how long does it last? “Concrete has a similar life span but is more prone to potholes,” she said, and “asphalt roads require resurfacing about every 15 years.” The majority of brick roads in the United States were built in the late 1900s, writes Schultz. She reports that Bedford, Ohio learned that maintenance was less expensive over time and that Davenport, Oklahoma, recently made the decision to preserve its brick streets. Now that bricks are again in demand, companies are supplying old-style pavers. One such is Pine Hall Brick in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which “makes bricks to match the ones laid in the city during the 1920s.” Historical Bricks Incorporated in Iowa City, Iowa “scours dumps across the country for bricks,” states Schultz. The owner said that 40 to 50 million pounds of bricks were reclaimed by his firm over three years.Champaign, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa: “ban paving over brick streets with other materials. Both cities spend nearly $100,000 a year to maintain brick streets.”
Cumberland, Maryland: plans to “expand preservation of its brick streets to another 6 square miles. The city already protects brick streets within its historic downtown neighborhood.”
Brooksville, Florida: “is removing pavement to expose long forgotten brick streets. To keep the cost of exposing the city’s 2 miles of uncovered brick streets low, the city uses prison labor, public works director Emory Pierce says.”
Amarillo, Texas: “has spent $200,000 already to restore one block of brick street. The city plans to restore part of another later this year, says city engineer Michael Smith.”
Blair, Nebraska: has “shelved a proposal to pave over the city’s dilapidated brick streets with asphalt after some of the 7,500 citizens urged them to keep the old surface for historical purposes.”
Winter Park, Florida: Brick streets were “so popular that many residents demanded brick streets in their neighborhoods….They even agreed to pay two-thirds of the cost of removing the asphalt from their blocks and re-laying the old bricks. Residents of four more blocks hope their streets will be redone in the next fiscal year.”
Brick streets are lovely…the warm color enriches and the shape of the bricks themselves is attractive. A street made of brick has so much charm. I bet many areas in Canada have preserved brick streets, but because the U.S. is that much older, there may be more examples there. Brick street preservation is good news! And it’s nice to get a bit of good news in this day and age, isn’t it?