Jim Kershner: Lincoln roadwork reveals link to the past
You might be surprised by what you find when you scrape Spokane’s surface.
Earlier this week, construction crews scraped the asphalt from Lincoln Street – as part of the enormous reconstruction project between 17th Avenue and 29th Avenue – and exposed row after row, block after block of the original red brick paving.
“Those bricks are just like new – as even and level and true as they were originally,” said Doris Woodward, who lives at 2121 S. Lincoln St. “Except for 100 years of dirt.”
In fact, Woodward is convinced that these bricks – hundreds of thousands of them – were manufactured just a few blocks away, at Henry Brook’s old brickyard in what is now Cannon Hill Park.
So these bricks may have once been Cannon Hill Park clay. Digging for the clay there resulted in a depression that is now the Cannon Hill Park pond. Wood ducks glide over it today.
A historian and author, Woodward has done research on Henry Brook, who ran that brickyard. I can’t confirm these bricks indeed came from that Cannon Hill brickyard – they aren’t stamped or identified in any way. Yet some of the evidence fits rather neatly in place – like the bricks themselves.
A 1910 advertisement in The Spokesman-Review reported that the Cannon Hill Park area was undergoing the “second largest paving contract ever let in Spokane,” with the principal streets, including Lincoln all the way to 29th, “being made into an unbroken stretch of brick and asphalt.” Brick paving was especially common on steep blocks.
Red brick paving remains across this part of the South Hill – a number of blocks have never been asphalted-over at all.
Bricks dug up in 1968 on Monroe Street, just a block over, were reported to have come from the Cannon Hill brickyard. So it’s not much of a leap to surmise that some of these Lincoln Street bricks might have originated at what was essentially the neighborhood brickyard.
A 1927 Spokesman-Review article by Aubrey L. White, extolling the beauties of Cannon Hill Park, had this to say: “Brick was made here until the clay deposit was exhausted. … The park department has taken advantage of the basin created by the old brick yard to make a lake which, owing largely to the manner in which the clay was deposited and therefore extracted, has resulted in a most naturalistic appearance.”
Whatever their provenance, the bricks soon will be scooped up and taken away as part of the new project. Yet the story of these bricks is not finished. Dennis O’Hagan of MDM Construction Inc., the project contractor, said the company intends to store them and eventually recycle them. Many are in excellent condition.
In fact, Lincoln Street residents are already doing some recycling of their own.
“People were out there picking up bricks last night,” Woodward said Friday. “Some in big style.”
O’Hagan said he has no problem with residents “plucking some bricks” and “using them as a memorial in their yard” or some other small-scale use. But he certainly doesn’t want an influx of nonresidents converging on the project and hauling off bricks by the trunk-full. The bricks now belong to the construction company.
If these bricks are indeed from Cannon Hill Park, a historical circle will be completed. One purpose of the project is to collect storm water from Lincoln Street and send it over to replenish … that same pond, at Cannon Hill Park.