Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hayden Block

One of my favorite paving blocks, Hayden Block, was first made in the 1880s by the Hocking Clay Manufacturing Company of Logan, Hocking County and then later in Haydenville, Hocking County. I recently visited a place where one can find this paving block still in service today. German Village is an historic neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus, Franklin County. It’s a wonderful district where area residents have been striving to preserve the German essence of the original inhabitants by restoring everything from top to bottom—the bottom being their brick streets.

Brick homes and businesses are the norm in German Village, but I’m more interested in the streets surrounding them. This is the corner of City Park Ave. and E. Blenkner St. (39.952°, -82.997°). You can see that the pavers laid down over 100 years ago are still doing their duty. These are mostly Hayden Blocks, a paver that is unusual in size and therefore hard to match when they have to be replaced for some reason. You can see the patches of red pavers that have been inserted into the midst of the brownish Hayden Block.

On closer inspection you can see the details of this paver. Each measures approximately 10 inches wide, 5.5 inches deep, and 5.25 inches high, while weighing in at a hefty 16 pounds. They apparently didn’t wear the same over the many years of use which was a surprise to me.

18 depressions decorate the top of this salt-glazed paver making it rather distinct, but what makes it even more unique is underneath. Turn it over and you find that this paver is rather like a concrete block by having two hollow cavities. In fact, one will often find these pavers used like concrete blocks in building construction. I found the one above in the rubble of a deconstructed home in Haydenville.

Here’s a little help in visualizing how big these pavers are. Next to the two Hayden Blocks, one used in construction and the other in the streets of German Village, is a normal sized Lincoln Block paver. By normal I mean about 9 inches wide, by 4 inches deep, by 4 inches high, and weighing around 9 pounds. Regular pavers do vary in size from manufacturer to manufacturer, but in general follow the 9 x 4 x 4 dimensions.

And may I just reassure people that no German Village street was harmed in the acquisition of the above paver. I liberated it from a construction zone in the area.

I know of three more designs that I have yet to add to my collection. One is depicted in the above ad—the circle design very similar to the much smaller sidewalk pavers made in Nelsonville. And then there are two plain-faced versions as well.

Just in case you noticed something odd about the Lincoln Block I used for size comparison above, here it is a little closer. No, your eyesight is fine-—the lettering has been double-stamped. In fact, the word Lincoln has been triple-stamped. I’m not sure how one word can be stamped differently than the other, but here’s the proof that it can happen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bill's Muffler Shop

When you travel to or through Nelsonville, Athens County, you really must get off the main road (State Route 33) and go into the heart of town. There are miles of lovely brick roads—Nelsonville has truly embraced its past. A pleasant surprise was Bill’s Muffler & Fast Lube on the southern edge of town (1280 Chestnut St., 39.4474°, -82.2162°). Someone put their artistic talent to good use by painting the outside of the building with scenes of classic automobiles on classic roads.

Here’s my own red Ford truck looking curiously at the old red truck painted on the garage door. Very clever how the artist used the windows of the door as the windows of the truck.

Here’s a closeup of the other garage door. Nice brick road!

Yep, I’d do business here—great paint job and an Ohio State fan to boot.

A triplane and a blimp are nice additions to the autos depicted in this Ohio hills sunset scene.

I’d like to thank Bill, whoever he is, for this nice surprise.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Blaine Hill “S” Bridge

I must confess I have a fascination with the oldest bridge in Ohio. The Blaine Hill “S” Bridge is located in Blaine, Belmont County, about 8 miles west of Wheeling, WV on the old National Road (40.067°, -80.820°). It is now 181 years old having been built in 1828, rebuilt in 1916, and restored to its present glory by September 2005. It is beautifully built of sandstone blocks with a deck of paving bricks.

Here it is in the foreground straddling the Wheeling Creek and literally in the shadow of its bigger brother, the Blaine Hill Viaduct. The viaduct was built in 1933 to carry the ever increasing automobile traffic on the National Road (U.S. 40). And behind the viaduct, not very visible in this photo, is I-70 where traffic flies by at a furious pace. They really should slow down and take a look at what the’re rushing past.

An interesting pair of photos looking west along the bridge and up the hill—the top taken in the 1930s and below it is my attempt to recreate it in 2006. You see the restoration was true to the original brick pavement with the concrete “curbing” separating the bricks laid in opposite directions on either side. But more intriguing is what happened to the mile marker? What a shame for it to be gone now.

Now we’re looking back toward the east after walking over the bridge and you can better see why it’s called an “S” bridge. “S” bridges were a way to cut costs on bridges that would have crossed a creek at an oblique angle. Instead, they were built perpendicular to the creek using less materials. A slight turn approaching the bridge plus another slight turn coming off the bridge equals an “S” bridge

Let’s turn back around and continue up the hill. The postcard on top shows a few cars in the 1920s making the 500-foot descent on the rather steep hill. The bottom photo is looking up that same hill which still contains the original brick pavement. There is an effort to make this area a small park as you can see by the benches half way up and the mulched plantings.

On closer inspection, some of the bricks have been turned to show the make. I only saw these Harris Bricks made in Zanesville, Ohio. I find it interesting to see how far away from their home kilns paving bricks end up. There are other paving brick plants much closer to this site than Zanesville-—must have made a really good bid on the project.

See the beveled edges on these pavers? They’re a type of “hill block”. This type of paver/block was used on hills to afford horses a better footing. Very clever, but kind of useless after the automobile took over.

They have a small problem here though. Looks like the edge of the road is starting to slip into the valley of a little tributary to the Wheeling Creek that this road follows. The use of rip rap on the slope will only help for a while.

And a last note—if you look around the shores of the Wheeling Creek you’ll see lots of well tumbled chunks of coal. Eastern Ohio has been a top producer of coal in the United States and Belmont County is the all-time coal production leader in Ohio. Hard working men, women, and children (yep—children in the old days) have mined out over 760 million tons of coal since 1816.