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Saturday, February 22, 2014

An old road story


My street is one of half a dozen residential streets off a county road. I had lunch recently with an old resident who referred to them as “the new streets.” Most were cut in the 1950’s, which is new in my township.

My street was an old farm lane, named after the family farm it bisected, and my side of the street was pasture land. The other side has the natural springs that cooled the spring houses that kept the dairy products cool and fresh for customers. I’m told there was quite a cheese factory operating on the acreage across our street. But the history of this end of the township is a little hazy.

This story is about the county road running north and south at the end of my street. This is the season of ubiquitous potholes, and I pulled over on the county road today to take a picture. This road base is brick. If it were a new road, the road bed would be probably three to four feet deep, filled with gravel, reinforced with rebar and made of concrete or asphalt poured into a frame.



But this is an old road. Akron Cleveland Road was one of the original state highways in Ohio, going from Marietta on the Ohio River to Cleveland on Lake Erie. It’s as old as automobiles! Back in the forties, when summers were as hot as this winter has been cold, Akron Cleveland Road was paved in the same bricks that are under the asphalt.

The grandson of the dairy farmers spent his summers here on his grandma’s farm. Today he lives on the corner of my street and the county road. He told me this story, and I've repeated it to people who think he made it up. Since I’m even older than he is, I know roads were paved in bricks once upon a time. The street my mother grew up on still is paved in bricks. Today I pulled right off the road when I saw bricks at the bottom of the pot hole. This one’s for you, Skip!

Back in the day, Skip said, those bricks were laid down just as they appear in that photo. Cars went up, cars went down, and on hot afternoons he sat on the front porch with his grandma, watching them. And an eye on the thermometer. Because, if it was hot enough for enough days and nights in a row, and those bricks got hotter and hotter, and the cars kept going up and down, sometimes he and grandma saw it happen!

A brick blew right up out of the road. Sometimes another and another. And on a really good day they got to see a brick go right through a radiator.




14 comments:

  1. I love hearing about Skip's memory... I'd love to see that happen myself! My hometown of Athens, Ohio still has several brick streets. They even had a bicycle race for a few years .... all on brick streets. I know lots of folks who collect bricks that have "engraved" in them the plant where they were made... Nelsonville, Haydenville, Athens etc. When I was in grade school my class took a field trip to see the kilns where the bricks were fired. Of course they're all closed now, but some of those little "company towns" still have a lot of brick homes that are in use. Still... I'd love to see one blow out of the ground ;-)

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  2. In NYC, they used cobblestones. I understand the cobblestones were used as ballast on the ships to the city, unloaded to make room for goods going out. They had to use the cobblestones for something, and they were perfect for roads.

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  3. Wow. And they are still there. Outlasting our new/improved roads. Which break up very, very rapidly.
    I am fascinated at the thought of 'popping bricks'. Scary stuff - but I would have loved to have seen it.

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  4. This town has a few brick streets. It's tough to rollerblade.

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  5. That is lovely, seeing that old brick road show through beneath the tarmac. Here in Bath (and this is by no means any sort of competition) we have stone cobbles that show through, having been laid down around 250 years ago. I love seeing those too.

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  6. no more entertainment like that. but yeah, brick and pavers. there is still a street or two for a block or two in the older parts of the inner city of Houston that still have the old pavers.

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  7. Wow! Our town maintained its dirt-road-ed-ness right up until asphalt became common. I'd love to have started out with bricks!

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  8. Now that is a good story --- pays to sit a spell with the folks that can remember all this wonderful stuff -- barbara

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  9. Wow, that exposed brick is amazing, Joanne.

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  10. I was beginning to wonder why the bricks had been paved over, then I read about bricks popping up and into radiators and understood. The bricks do look lovely though. and that's a heck of a pothole! Asphalt is terrible for potholes, it doesn't last. I'm surprised to hear your roads are dug out nice and deep before being filled and paved, ours just get graded flat, asphalt is poured and everyone says "good job" and hopes it lasts.

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  11. Kind of nice to see the history popping up through the road bed.....we had a little history dug up here when they did some work on Quebec Street a few years ago......they missed a few bodies when the moved the cemetery years ago.

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  12. Exploding bricks would be dangerous for travel. I've known rocks to explode in a fire but never heard of bricks in a road exploding. It makes sense if they were hot enough. All this reminds me of playing with the hot sticky tar that would bubble on our street in the hot summer.

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  13. Eeek! Cool and scary all at the same time :)

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  14. Yikes! I guess that's why they don't fill potholes with bricks anymore. We have TONS of potholes in Hawaii and we don't even have snow.

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