Friday, August 7, 2009

Hitting the bricks

In my youth many of the Davenport streets were paved with Purington Pavers, which were reddish-brown bricks from the Purington Brick Co. of East Galesburg, Illinois. Davenport began paving its business streets with these "fire bricks" about 1890. Within twenty years there were 50 miles of Davenport streets paved with brick and asphalt according to the library's reference copy of Harry E. Downer's History of Davenport and Scott County, Iowa (1910).

I had a hard time finding a street paved with brick today. During the past forty years most of Davenport's brick streets have been blacktopped over. I had to go cruising around the poorer sections of Davenport adjacent to the old downtown area (and gathering some quizzical looks from the residents in the process) before I found two blocks of 5th Street that had the original brick paving. This part of 5th Street had been sacrificed to two sets of railroad tracks running down the middle of the street, leaving a narrow lane on each side. Evidently these narrow lanes presented such a tight squeeze for vehicles that they had not been worth the trouble to cover with concrete or blacktop. I went rumbling down the lane in my rental car, feeling the nostalgic vibration of tires on bricks.

I had a lot of fun with one particular brick street back when I worked in a Buick dealership as a summer job during my college years. Occasionally I was asked to take one of the Buick Skylarks down to a car wash that was located on a brick street. After the wash job, when the tires were still wet and soapy, I would get in the Skylark, look both ways, and then roar out onto the bricks. The car would fishtail like a frightened dolphin.