The Bricks Speak

Allan Appel PhotoAs Emanuel Silva was finishing erecting a fence, he paused to admire a red brick road revealed by the deep repaving occurring on Grand Avenue. He wasn’t the only one marveling at a newly unearthed glimpse of centuries past.

“Imagine all the work that the mason back in the day went through,” he marveled. “The time and the sweat on his hands and knees.”

The extensive repaving of Grand Avenue from Ferry to James, by the spot where Silva was working, is causing drivers to slow and in many instances swerve around now raised water mains.

The silver lining is that it is also revealing the 19th century surface beneath.

Even before he checked out the road Wednesday, Silva and his partner from Eagle Fence and Guard Rail looked up from their work securing the construction site where Mutual Housing is erecting affordable units.

Here to admire was an old field stone foundation that the excavation had revealed.

Silva took note of the road and the bricks in part because his father is a mason.

“I know [how tough the work is] because I know what he goes through,” he said.

At the intersection of Grand and Lloyd you could see not only multicolored bricks, with some of their original shadings still discernible, but a kind of brick path going on a diagonal to the far corner.

Was this a kind of brick crosswalk? At an angle? A 19th century version of the going-in-all-directions pedestrian crossing that we now have at certain busy intersections?

Hard to know, said City Engineer Richard Miller. But he said he guesses it is more recent, related to upgrades in mass transit of a century ago.

“I suspect it goes back to the early 1900s when the trolley line was put in place,” he said. “There is also the rails exist in the same areas where the brick work exists. We are not taking the brick out but will be paving over it as before. The brick seems to be stable to handle the overlay.”


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posted by: HewNaven on November 8, 2012  11:42am

I’m torn on this subject. As I understand, early cyclists were the first to advocate for smoother roadways, which we all now enjoy. Yet, who wouldn’t want to see a brick or cobblestone Grand Avenue! That would be beautiful.

posted by: Long Time NH Resident on November 8, 2012  12:18pm

Unfortunately the bricks were designed for horse and carriage and lightweight vehicles. today’s trucks and buses would most likely crush and break the bricks causing more maintenance than beauty. Nice thought though.

Wouldn’t surprised if there are trolley tracks still under there somewhere.

I dare not say anything about the CNH or John D as this comment will be banned by NHI.

posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on November 8, 2012  1:27pm

It would be nice to reveal this. It would also slow traffic down.

I think it could handle it.  Look at SOHO in NYC.

posted by: anonymous on November 8, 2012  6:57pm

There would be many benefits to restoring the historic appearance of the neighborhood, a la Beacon Hill in Boston, SOHO in NYC, or countless cities in Europe.

1) The maintenance cost might be higher (though don’t underestimate the cost of asphalt over time), but this would create a few jobs in a place that sorely needs them.

2) Whether or not costs were higher, we’d be spending the money on jobs to fix bricks, instead of spending it on oil from foreign nations.

3) The slower traffic would result in higher retail sales and an improving neighborhood (SOHO is about money, not just beauty), as opposed to a place that people think of as a highway.

Or, we can just continue to pave over our entire city with asphalt because it is more “efficient.” The city will look even more like a parking lot and we will have exactly zero jobs left.

posted by: Stephen Harris on November 11, 2012  8:07pm

If laid to handle heavy traffic, pavers last. They expand and contract with the weather and repairs entail removing only those paver needed. They can then be put back in place without leaving a scar, like asphalt.