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Red street bricks


Vertigo58

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Here is another one that never seems to die down.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that these bricks must have been the only thing available and affordable $ to use as pavement a long time ago. There must be record as to who the workers were that placed these where they now lie. I only know as a kid when we would drive over small portions of this terribly bumpy stuff it was very annoying. There was and still is quite a bit over by Guadalupe Church area (Navigation/Canal). I recall the ladies complaining about their heels breaking or getting stuck as they walked to mass. Older relatives tell me they hated having to walk on them eveyday to the store/school. When the rains came what a mess, puddles of mud for days, became mosquitoe issue. There was no city spraying insecticide in them days folks. Had to tough it out!

People at the time were more than happy to see these ugly uncomfortable things removed or paved over. Common sense, smoother on your new car right? Well here we are decades later and some are dying to keep them. A person on the news the other day made a really incorrect remark as to who layed them down. Now everyone knows that The City of Houston has always employed people of all ethnicities so these were placed by any and everyone. We can't assume that only certain ethnicities placed them in Guadalupe Church area? Give me a break. I can tell you majority of people in that area would love to see them dissapear forever. Freedman's T area insists they are to be placed back exactly where they were removed plus keep the streets tiny and narrow. You cant fit a hairpin when 2 autos are trying to pass. Emergency vehicles cant reach destinations in time. Real mess. Basically, no one is ever happy.

Edited by Vertigo58
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Give horses "a grip"?

I don't think so. Brick streets made life difficult for people with horse-drawn carriages and wagons, because, for horses, there is almost nothing more slippery than wet bricks. Bricks were put down at the advent of the automotive age to make it easier for motor vehicles to get around -- not horses. Before then, streets were unpaved dirt wagon roads, rutted and often muddy, which made driving a car anywhere a dirty and miserable experience.

Horse owners hated the brick streets because it was hard for a shod horse to have any traction, especially when it rained. And along with the rain, don't forget that at the turn of the 20th century, streets were covered with manure left behind by the many thousands of horses that plied the streets every day. I read somewhere that city workers removed thousands of pounds of manure from the streets every night. And we call that era "the good old days".

Paving streets with cement was cost prohibitive, labor intensive, and still in the future, but bricks were cheap and plentiful, and they could be put in place quickly. And I bet the mayor or somebody at city hall either owned a brick factory, or had a relative who owned one. Somebody made a lot of money from paving streets with bricks.

Edited by FilioScotia
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maybe that is how I read it and turned it around in my mind. I could have sworn it said that the uneven bricks gave the horses extra footing going up hills while pulling carts. Hmmmmmmm........... I'll have to get with Mr. Peabody and take the wayback machine to remember where I read it.

You know Filio, I wouldn't normally argue with YOU on a topic because you usually know your stuff, but I am pretty sure those bricks were laid down before the advent of the automobile, and well before any cars were the everyday norm around here. I guess I need to find out what years those bricks were being laid. I am almost certain the streets were already paved before automobiles were driving around Houston.

Edited by TJones
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You know Filio, I wouldn't normally argue with YOU on a topic because you usually know your stuff, but I am pretty sure those bricks were laid down before the advent of the automobile, and well before any cars were the everyday norm around here.

You could be right, and I'm also questioning my own statements about it. It just seemed logical to me to pave dirt streets with bricks, because it did make it easier for cars to get around.

But I think I may be wrong about that, because it now occurs to me that I've seen old 19th century photos of downtown Houston and brick streets were clearly visible. I will do some more research and educate myself before I weigh in with anymore half-baked pontifications. mea culpa

Edited by FilioScotia
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Here is another one that never seems to die down.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that these bricks must have been the only thing available and affordable $ to use as pavement a long time ago. There must be record as to who the workers were that placed these where they now lie. I only know as a kid when we would drive over small portions of this terribly bumpy stuff it was very annoying. There was and still is quite a bit over by Guadalupe Church area (Navigation/Canal). I recall the ladies complaining about their heels breaking or getting stuck as they walked to mass. Older relatives tell me they hated having to walk on them eveyday to the store/school. When the rains came what a mess, puddles of mud for days, became mosquitoe issue. There was no city spraying insecticide in them days folks. Had to tough it out!

People at the time were more than happy to see these ugly uncomfortable things removed or paved over. Common sense, smoother on your new car right? Well here we are decades later and some are dying to keep them. A person on the news the other day made a really incorrect remark as to who layed them down. Now everyone knows that The City of Houston has always employed people of all ethnicities so these were placed by any and everyone. We can't assume that only certain ethnicities placed them in Guadalupe Church area? Give me a break. I can tell you majority of people in that area would love to see them dissapear forever. Freedman's T area insists they are to be placed back exactly where they were removed plus keep the streets tiny and narrow. You cant fit a hairpin when 2 autos are trying to pass. Emergency vehicles cant reach destinations in time. Real mess. Basically, no one is ever happy.

I lived in the 6600 blk of Ave, L right by Navagation and saw plenty of red bricks in my childhood years. For a while my Greatgrandmother, Ida lived with us and told many a wonderful story. One was about the red bricks on Navagation and that they were put there to pave the road because one of our presidents was coming to visit Houston and would be arriving at the port and driving down Navagation to Downtown. They wanted the street to be pretty. Probably not and ounce of truth to it but we believed it. Ida was born in 1879 and she MUST have known Everything!

Edited by EastEnd Susan
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They wanted the street to be pretty. Probably not and ounce of truth to it but we believed it. Ida was born in 1879 and she MUST have know Everything!

Dunno, knowing past Houstonians, that story might not be so far fetched.. Sounds like something

they might do, if money was flush, and they really wanted to impress the prez..

MK

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Here is another one that never seems to die down.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that these bricks must have been the only thing available and affordable $ to use as pavement a long time ago.

Apparently not, after a little googling I found out that Modern road building designs and techniques date all the way back to the ancient Roman times. Roman empire city streets were normally paved with "basalt slabs". Couldn't find an exact date for cobblestone streets, but they were used in colonial US, often using the balast stones from ships arriving from the old country.

Then in 1820 a guy named John Loudon McAdam came up with a road paving system that was three layers of varying rock size, laid at various thickness then compacted with a heavy roller. It was a very labor intensive process, so brick paving must have come up as a quicker alternative. With the arrival of the automobile, the McAdam roads kicked up too much dust and that's when asphalt came in. The US apparently still has miles and miles of the old McAdams roads that have been asphalted over.

Edited by devonhart
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The idea of MacAdam roads were that they were paved with stones in layers of different sizes, and at the top, steel shod wagon wheels would pulverise the stones, and the dust would wash into the cracks, and form a binder. The advent of pneumatic rubber tires with tread destroyed these roads because the tread sucked the binder out and the roads would unravel. This lead to oil roads, asphalt roads and concrete roads, and occured after rubber tires became common, ie 1920s.

Brick for streets was around a long time. Philadelphia streets had slate tracks for wagon wheels, granite curbstones and granite bricks for pavers. Sometimes brick was used, it was plentiful because it came in as ballast but was mainly used in houses. In the post civil war boom (the mcmansions of the industrialists who manufactured for the war, around rittenhouse square) georgia pine was cut into bricks and treated and used as pavers because wooden bricks made less noise that clay or granite bricks.

When and why houston started paving with bricks I do not know. I know of no brick streets in austin, but corsicana has a lot of them still. Seems like my mother used to take me past one in the heights in the 1960s.

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Brick for streets was around a long time. Philadelphia streets had slate tracks for wagon wheels, granite curbstones and granite bricks for pavers. Sometimes brick was used, it was plentiful because it came in as ballast but was mainly used in houses. In the post civil war boom (the mcmansions of the industrialists who manufactured for the war, around rittenhouse square) georgia pine was cut into bricks and treated and used as pavers because wooden bricks made less noise that clay or granite bricks.

When and why houston started paving with bricks I do not know. I know of no brick streets in austin, but corsicana has a lot of them still. Seems like my mother used to take me past one in the heights in the 1960s.

Good addition,

I am almost certain these red brick roads can still be found all the way to the far east end of Navigation and Canal near ship channel.

I say paint them yellow if we keep them and as a promotion to the city have Dorothy & hundreds of munchkins skip all the way to downtown. Sounds crazy but bet it works as far as publicity goes! Sometimes our skyline looks like an Emerald City. :rolleyes:

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I say paint them yellow if we keep them and as a promotion to the city have Dorothy & hundreds of munchkins skip all the way to downtown. Sounds crazy but bet it works as far as publicity goes! Sometimes our skyline looks like an Emerald City. :rolleyes:

Dude, that already happens once every year on Westhiemer! ;):D

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I believe the original street paving material was wood plank. This was better than mud, but not very practical because the planks would come loose or people would steal them. which left gaps in which wagon wheels or horses hooves could get caught and break. In the newspaper during W.R. Baker's mayorship I saw request for bids in the paper for streetpaving. The request for bids stipulated the materials which were acceptable for use in the bid. The paving could either be done with brick, asphalt, or wood. If the bidder chose to use wood it stipulated the size of the blocks and mentioned that it must be heart pine or heart cypress. Somewhere you might be able to find who was granted the bids for which streets. It may have even been posted in a later paper, but I doubt you can find which individuals did the actual work.

There are quite a few brick sidewalks in the Old Sixth Ward. This has led many to conjecture that the city used to build brick sidewalks, but in the 1890s it was mentioned in the paper that indivudual homeowners were responsible for building the brick sidewalks in the Sixth Ward and the editor was encouraging others in the neighborhood to do the same.

Edited by isuredid
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These are all excellent replies and information.

Speaking of wooden plank (sidewalks) aside. If you have time one day to read up or see the NPR documentary on The Great Chicago Fire. Check out what a danger the wooden sidewalks became when this tragedy occurred. A combination of bad luck that night. High winds, dry leaves alll over. The gust of wind pushed many leaves under the sidewalks which at the height of the fire helped fan the flames into the main hub of the city. Turned them into instant fuses. Just aweful. The irony of this whole historical event was that Mrs O'leary's was cleared of causing the incident. Several disgruntled youths had stole items from the barn and they tipped over the lantern they brought with them. See the docu!

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These are all excellent replies and information.

Speaking of wooden plank (sidewalks) aside. If you have time one day to read up or see the NPR documentary on The Great Chicago Fire.

NPR? Or PBS? Hard to "see" anything on NPR.

NPR did do a story about this in October of 1997. Not a "documentary", but an interview with a Chicago city council member who says new research has cleared Mrs O'Leary's cow of starting the fire.

Here's a link to it in NPR's archives. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1038129

Edited by FilioScotia
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These are all excellent replies and information.

Speaking of wooden plank (sidewalks) aside. If you have time one day to read up or see the NPR documentary on The Great Chicago Fire. Check out what a danger the wooden sidewalks became when this tragedy occurred. A combination of bad luck that night. High winds, dry leaves alll over. The gust of wind pushed many leaves under the sidewalks which at the height of the fire helped fan the flames into the main hub of the city. Turned them into instant fuses. Just aweful. The irony of this whole historical event was that Mrs O'leary's was cleared of causing the incident. Several disgruntled youths had stole items from the barn and they tipped over the lantern they brought with them. See the docu!

I think several of the streets were wooden plank....not just the sidewalks...I read several stories about wagon wrecks because of loose or missing planks in the street. Washington Road was a plank road when it was paved.

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NPR? Or PBS? Hard to "see" anything on NPR.

NPR did do a story about this in October of 1997. Not a "documentary", but an interview with a Chicago city council member who says new research has cleared Mrs O'Leary's cow of starting the fire.

Here's a link to it in NPR's archives. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1038129

Correction!!!

Your right it was on American Experience (Ken Burns?) PBS.

I just saw it about 6 months ago. It was awesome. Maybe someone can contact PBS or channel 8 to rerun????

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I believe the original street paving material was wood plank. This was better than mud, but not very practical because the planks would come loose or people would steal them. which left gaps in which wagon wheels or horses hooves could get caught and break. In the newspaper during W.R. Baker's mayorship I saw request for bids in the paper for streetpaving. The request for bids stipulated the materials which were acceptable for use in the bid. The paving could either be done with brick, asphalt, or wood. If the bidder chose to use wood it stipulated the size of the blocks and mentioned that it must be heart pine or heart cypress. Somewhere you might be able to find who was granted the bids for which streets. It may have even been posted in a later paper, but I doubt you can find which individuals did the actual work.

There are quite a few brick sidewalks in the Old Sixth Ward. This has led many to conjecture that the city used to build brick sidewalks, but in the 1890s it was mentioned in the paper that indivudual homeowners were responsible for building the brick sidewalks in the Sixth Ward and the editor was encouraging others in the neighborhood to do the same.

Very good- I forgot to mention wood plank roads were more common in the south. They were called corderoy roads because of the bumps. What year was the request for bids or the baker mayorship?

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There's still a few brick streets remaining in the Montrose area. There's a one-block stretch on Crocker between Westheimer and Avondale (next to Katz's), and two or three in the Cherryhurst neighborhood - the streets named after states (Michigan? Indiana? Maryland? I forget which specific ones.)

The neighborhood associations there have been very protective of their brick streets and have resisted efforts to cover them with asphalt, for which I'm grateful. These are residential streets, not freeways; there's no cause to encourage people to drive faster than they already do. And they're charming - a quality found rarely in Houston.

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Could it also be possible that back then, beauty was considered more often when building something?

That was certainly true when it comes to urban design- it was the city beautiful movement was growing, and it was the beggining of urban planning (River oaks was houstons city beautiful inspired neighborhood). However the rise of the automobile and the ensuing urban auto congestion forced cities to move from a planning and design approach to an engineering to make cars happy approach- which is self feeding, since building better auto roads always stimulates more use of the auto.

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You guys have heard of the "Brickyard" in racing right? The present day Indianapolis Raceway (Indy 500), was paved with all bricks because no other material was available at the time.

They actually tried wood before bricks, but it obviously didnt last and burned during one race.

Not sure about Indy, but there were lots of tracks around the country made of wood at one time. The first board track opened in 1910 (the first Indy 500 was in 1911).

Board track racing

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  • 3 weeks later...
There are quite a few brick sidewalks in the Old Sixth Ward. This has led many to conjecture that the city used to build brick sidewalks, but in the 1890s it was mentioned in the paper that indivudual homeowners were responsible for building the brick sidewalks in the Sixth Ward and the editor was encouraging others in the neighborhood to do the same.

I'm not sure how much light this sheds on the issue, but I ran across a letter to the editor in the October 28, 1892 edition of the Houston Daily Post that states in part as follows:

As chairman of the executive department of the Fifth Ward North Side Improvement club I desire to thank Alderman Fox for introducing his brick pavement resolution in the city council on last Monday evening, and trust the matter will now be pushed and that this city will no longer be disgraced and lives and limbs endangered by the existence of these old death traps, plank sidewalks. We, on this side of town, had already formulated plans and petitions, asking for these very sidewalks, and the adoption of this resolution saves us lots of hard work. I can safely say there is not a single man on this side that does not heartily endorse the action of Mr. Fox. . . . Our club . . . desire
to say to our city fathers do what is done well, and do not put any more money in wooden street pavements or sidewalks or anything but of the best permanent character.

The remainder of the letter, from Ed A. Osler, discussed the need for public electric lighting.

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I'm not sure how much light this sheds on the issue, but I ran across a letter to the editor in the October 28, 1892 edition of the Houston Daily Post that states in part as follows:

As chairman of the executive department of the Fifth Ward North Side Improvement club I desire to thank Alderman Fox for introducing his brick pavement resolution in the city council on last Monday evening, and trust the matter will now be pushed and that this city will no longer be disgraced and lives and limbs endangered by the existence of these old death traps, plank sidewalks. We, on this side of town, had already formulated plans and petitions, asking for these very sidewalks, and the adoption of this resolution saves us lots of hard work. I can safely say there is not a single man on this side that does not heartily endorse the action of Mr. Fox. . . . Our club . . . desire
to say to our city fathers do what is done well, and do not put any more money in wooden street pavements or sidewalks or anything but of the best permanent character.

The remainder of the letter, from Ed A. Osler, discussed the need for public electric lighting.

Wonderful research! Seems wooden sidewalks were a nighmare. Must have sounded like hundreds of horses trotting by once. If you see the past note (above somewhere) about the danger wooden sidewalks could do (The Great Chicago Fire). I can see why bricks were an alternative. :)

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Here's a link to an article by the Houston Press concerning the brick streets in the Fourth Ward:

Fourth ward brick streets

Some interesting quotes from the article:

Years after former slaves founded Freedmen's Town in the late 19th century, city officials still refused to provide services to the district, Roberts says. Andrews remained a muddy breeding ground for yellow fever until residents eventually donated dollar bills to a local African-American minister, now remembered only as Jeremiah, and built the street themselves.
Local African-American masons fired the bricks on-site, most likely with mud from Buffalo Bayou, Roberts says. Blacksmiths who lived in the district also forged rails for a mule-drawn trolley line that once ran down Andrews, across the current path of I-45 and into downtown as far as Antioch Missionary Baptist Church at 500 Clay.
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There were several downtown streets that had wooden planks for paving. My father and grandfather have both told me about unearthing these planks at various locations as they were cutting the street and sidewalks for sewer excavations.

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When they were repaving all of the downtown streets a few years back, they took the streets down to the original level, which was suprisingly far below the current street. On Travis I spotted wooden beams once they got down to the old level. At first I thought I was seeing evidence of the old wooden streets until I saw the spacing and realized I was looking at the RR ties for the old streetcar lines. They had taken up the rails, but left the ties. Some of the streets still had the brick pavers underneath and those they piled up on pallets and hauled away to be stored somewhere. Maybe someone knows where?

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  • 13 years later...
On 2/15/2007 at 4:34 PM, FilioScotia said:

I don't think so. Brick streets made life difficult for people with horse-drawn carriages and wagons, because, for horses, there is almost nothing more slippery than wet bricks. Bricks were put down at the advent of the automotive age to make it easier for motor vehicles to get around -- not horses. Before then, streets were unpaved dirt wagon roads, rutted and often muddy, which made driving a car anywhere a dirty and miserable experience.

Horse owners hated the brick streets because it was hard for a shod horse to have any traction, especially when it rained. And along with the rain, don't forget that at the turn of the 20th century, streets were covered with manure left behind by the many thousands of horses that plied the streets every day. I read somewhere that city workers removed thousands of pounds of manure from the streets every night. And we call that era "the good old days".

Paving streets with cement was cost prohibitive, labor intensive, and still in the future, but bricks were cheap and plentiful, and they could be put in place quickly. And I bet the mayor or somebody at city hall either owned a brick factory, or had a relative who owned one. Somebody made a lot of money from paving streets with bricks.

According to the internet, the steepest part of two streets in Pullman, Washington, in 1913, were paved with brick to provide traction for both horses and automobiles, especially during the winter.

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  • 6 months later...

My late husband was a 63 year stone mason and bricklayer, Local 5 Texas. I bought this print for him for his birthday one year from Sloane Gallery. These are the immigrant workers who laid the brick streets. 

I couldn't help noticing that a bricklayer's  biggest pet peeve has been committed on some replies. Whether you have 1 brick or 1000 brick, it is never bricks. They did not build bricks walls or bricks houses. Just keeping y'all up on the lingo. I miss him every day. He was a walking encyclopedia of Houston, particularly downtown. And we would find a parking space close to Allen's Landing and walk the streets with him pointing out the rare rings left in the sidewalks to tie your horse and buggy, old stone buildings that I'm sure are no longer there and then Old Spaghetti Warehouse, finishing up at La Carafe. 

1e934c675ae23de1f583f9c5c28b6a4f.jpg

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