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Brick Roads

Huntington, West Virginia

August 25, 2021

I have come across several brick roads in my travels. Here are a couple of articles about the history of such roads/streets.

Mr. M. Levi obtained the first patent for paving brick roads during the 1870s. Shortly thereafter, thousands of brickmaking companies opened their doors to keep up with the new demand for covering streets all across America. Toward the mid-1900s, asphalt roads became increasingly more common, resulting in many brick streets being covered over or replaced. Over the past decade or so, there has been a growing movement to consider the advantages of brick streets. Here are a few notable cities with brick streets that have taken measures to build new streets or restore existing ones.

Atlanta, Georgia: Flood Control

The city of Atlanta, Georgia is one of the latest ones to utilize brick streets. In 2015, more than six miles of streets near Turner Field were torn up and replaced with red Georgia brick. The Atlanta Department of Watershed Management came up with the idea as part of its overall plan to control flooding. The streets in question contain a layer of filtration rock with loosely-spaced bricks over top, allowing for better drainage than asphalt would.

The brick paving method used in Atlanta is actually nothing new, as it dates back to the Roman Empire. Similar projects have also been completed in Philadelphia, Portland, Chicago, and Los Angeles; however, the one in Atlanta is the largest one of its kind thus far.

Georgetown, D.C.: Aesthetics and Speed Control

In 2009, Georgetown Metropolitan made the case for reverting several asphalt roads back into brick. According to this publication, residents of the Poplar Street Neighborhood Association wanted to bury unsightly electrical wires underneath the street, and believed it would be easier to do so if the asphalt were replaced with brick. Georgetown Metropolitan also claimed that repaving certain roads with brick would allow for better speed control, listing several very short streets in residential areas that could benefit.

Although Poplar Street itself remains covered in asphalt, some brick streets in Georgetown have nonetheless been upgraded. An example is along “O” and “P” streets between Wisconsin Avenue and 37th Street. Beginning in 2011, six blocks of streets were torn up and utility lines replaced. Original brick was then placed back on the street and sidecar tracks, but in a manner that provided a more even surface. This allowed streets to maintain their original charm, while also being safer to walk and drive on.

Suburban Chicago, IL-Returning to Brick

As far back as 2006, a number of Chicago suburbs were mulling the idea of removing the asphalt that covered many of their original brick streets. One such suburb was Wilmette, which restored seven blocks of roadway formerly covered by asphalt. Others like Forest Park and Downers Grove have taken measures to restore their existing brick streets because they recognize their importance in keeping traffic down and maintaining character.

Oak Park officials have long been toying with a plan to uncover brick streets, particularly those along Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue. The thought was that by doing so, they could provide a more uniform look throughout all of the downtown shopping districts. Thus far, a lack of funding seems to be what is holding the village back, as officials have been denied grants for road improvements at least twice over the past few years.

These are just a few examples of how cities across the country are either returning to brick streets or taking measures to protect their existing ones. You can enjoy the same benefits by installing a brick driveway, sidewalk, or walkway on your own property. By using historical, reclaimed brick for your project, you will prevent a great deal of landfill waste,a while at the same time adding nostalgic charm to your home

Another article I found:

Bricks have been around for centuries, bringing with them both beauty and functionality. As roads became more sophisticated and horse drawn carts and early automobiles began to populate them, bricks became especially important. How brick streets were laid in the late 1800s, early 1900s is an interesting story.

The Beginning

Before the late 19th and early 20th century, most streets were made out of dirt and gravel. At this time, however, the roads especially in cities became nicer and began to be constructed out of bricks.

In 1870, a man named Mordecai Levi from Charleston, West Virginia decided to try out a new method for creating roads. He used bricks to pave Summers Street, working as the brain and muscle behind the endeavor while a certain Dr. Hale was financing the project.

Because roads were constructed out of gravel or compacted dirt when it would rain parts of the road would wash away, or become a giant mud puddle. This meant that using those roads after a storm would be treacherous and very difficult if not impossible to traverse.

Levi created the idea of using brick road construction to pave the early streets. By 1873, he had paved an entire block. He even sought out a U.S. patent in order to ensure that his idea of paving the roads was protected by law. Soon, bricks became the solution to the increasing problem of how to improve roads under heavier traffic.

The Process

Bricks became a great option for creating streets, because they were extremely durable. Generally speaking, the most commonly used types were vitrified bricks, a glazed variety that began to become popular in the early 1900’s. Their glaze meant that they were impervious to moisture and chemical corrosion, which made them ideal for roads.

According the patent created by Levi, the bottom layer of any road would be graded or filled depending on the current structure of the road. Next, a layer of broken stone, slate, gravel or sand is applied over the leveled road bed. A second layer of asphalt or material with a similar consistency was placed next.

A third layer consisted of sand, followed by the bricks and of course curbs were placed along the sides of the roads. In the image he included with his patent, it also appears that roads were created with a slight rise in the middle. This was probably to help with additional drainage of the road.

Brick roads worked excellently because they allowed water to absorb through them more naturally, without the same problems today’s roads have with expansion and contraction. Additionally, bricks have amazing longevity and are very durable. Once word of Levi’s brick road construction method got around, it became very popular around the United States, but especially in cities like Philadelphia.

History To Own

Bricks were a fantastic answer to contemporary problem with the roads. Not only did they offer a solution to heavier traffic, but they looked good in the process. For many cities, bricks revolutionized transportation and ended limitations caused by weather. Of course, as time went by, other methods started to be used to create roads. But as we all know, the modern roads of today are not without their problems.

As cities continue to dig up old roads and remove bricks, it becomes an easy decision to keep the brick roads of the past. Although they may require flipping or are bumpy from shifting ground, you can enjoy the beauty and history of the old roads

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