This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Paving Bricks

In the past few years the city has been improving the sidewalks with stroller-, wheelchair-, and bicycle-friendly transitions to the roads. Many of them have some kind of paving brick incorporated. For some reason this sent me on a search for brick sidewalks.
Of course the biggest expanse of paving bricks is not in sidewalks, but in two of the streets around the court house square. They give a special feel to the downtown area. Under the asphalt of Washington Street in the downtown similar paving bricks are hiding. They were visible the last time it was refinished, and you can see them in some of the potholes. I also saw paving bricks in a pothole at the intersection of Susan and College.
The best existing example that I found of a brick sidewalk is along Grace Street before it becomes 114. It is well maintained and fairly new.
Another sidewalk that uses the same kind of paving brik is along Clark Street at the intersection of College.
However, this stretch is older and has not been well-maintained. Along Clark it is slowing disappearing under encroaching lawn, and along College it has been bent and twisted by tree growth.
Going further east on Clark to Brookside Creek, you will find a tiny bit of old brick sidewalk. It is unlikely it is used much. One wonders why it was installed.
The area around the Amtrak station has the old sidewalks that once served the Rensselaer train depot. The bricks in the picture below that are above the sidewalk were floor tiles for that depot.Another bit of old brick sidewalk is hiding under the pavement at Webster and Washington. If the pavement had not broken up a bit, I probably would not have seen it. I wonder if at one time this was part of a much longer sidewalk. The sidewalk continues as a fairly new concrete sidewalk.Perhaps the strangest bits of brick sidewalk crosses an alley on Susan Street between Cullin and Weston. If you look at the lower right of the picture below, you can see it. (I took the pictures because I had never seen this small grader before. Does the city own it? How often do they grade alleys?)
Another tiny stretch of brick sidewalk exists on North McKinley near Walnut across the street from the Prairie's Edge. The brick part exists only for the few feet where the sidewalk crosses a driveway. Another odd bit of bricks is at College and Vine.

Some of the paving bricks have the word "Brazil" on them. These came from Brazil, Indiana, not Brazil the country. Here is some information about the factory written back when it was still in operation:
The oldest paving-brick plant in the state is the Indiana Paving Brick Co. of Brazil. The first vitrified brick and block were made by the company in 1891, and three years later it furnished the material for the first street paving in Brazil. The product since that time has reached proportions that are not readily comprehended in mere figures, and from the beginning this has been more than a local industry. Many cities and towns of the state have their streets paved with the bricks made at this plant, and the product has gone by trainloads to Louisville, Cincinnati and other cities beyond the state borders. The plant is in the western part of the city just north of the Vandalia Railroad. The raw material was formerly obtained altogether from the shale deposits near the intersection of the C. & E. I. Railroad and Otter creek, north of Brazil, but in recent years beds have been opened nearer to the works. The output averages 50,000 brick a day, or about 150 carloads a month, 24 kilns being operated. The average number of employees is 100, and the monthly payroll is nearly $5,000.
I found a brick on the street by the Court House that said Wabash, and that probably was from the Wabash Clay Company of Veedersburg.

Until a few years ago Saint Joseph's College had brick sidewalks in the grotto area and the area north of the Science Building. They have been replaced by uninspired concrete sidewalks. The old paving bricks have been used to line flower beds and other things (where they often look out of place.). However, there is still one brick sidewalk on campus, just to the west of the chapel.Most of the bricks at SJC said "BARR" on them. I have not found anything about the company that made them (but did not look too hard.)

There are bricks in the new sidewalk of the Core Building plaza, but they do not have the same appeal as the old sidewalks had.
If you know the history of any of these sidewalks, please comments. Or if you know of some that I have missed, tell me about them.

(I have more to say about sidewalks, but that will wait for another post.)

1 comment:

Rigby said...

Many of the streets of older sections of towns in New York, Philadelphia and other cities were paved with bricks. Apparently United States would send supplies to Europe,and bricks were loaded into the ships to weight them down for transport back to the United States, instead of sending the ship back empty. There were so many bricks that they used them to pave streets.