Brick roadway came to Jacksonville, Florida in 1893. Florida’s capital was one of the first areas in Florida to lay seven miles of its streets with vitrified bricks.
Vitrified brick are glazed at higher temperatures than ordinary brick. Fired brick was invented some 3000-5000 years ago in Jericho, according to Brick: A World History by author James Campbell. Brick roads were used in the days of the Roman Empire, and brick roads and highways were intrinsic to the development of the South.
Coquina to Brick
The British laid down their coquina-based oyster shell road in the 18th century creating Kings Road, near Jacksonville. Maintenance was practically impossible on this type of ground surface. The road slowly morphed into the landscape.
The Florida Road Department and Rural Brick
As Michael Gannon wrote in his book, Florida, a Short History, Tampa already had 15 automobiles by 1906 and the entire state had 296 automobiles. Driving was not yet for the masses but Florida recognized a potential transportation boom, thus The Florida Road Department was created in 1908. In this way, brick continued southward. Florida’s brick was transported by rail and by mule.
Eventually by 1912 successful brick road construction ran from Jacksonville to the Duvall county line. This was the foundation for early brick road access via the Dixie Hwy to southern parts of Florida.
The Dixie Highway blue print was organized in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a master plan to build a road east from Chicago To Miami. The plan later spiraled involving different branches and roads traveling in several directions. (The eastern route became US 25 and eventually either paralleled or was replaced by I-75 from Miami to Michigan. At this point it was no longer brick obviously.)
Florida Contained the 3rd Highest Concentration of Brick Highway in U.S.
By 1925 Florida possessed 337 miles of rural brick in its highway network. County and country brick roads made up another 389 miles. What originally was called the Old Spanish Trail later become State Road 1 and eventually by 1929 became known as U.S. Highway 90. Less than 50 miles of that old brick remain today.
Brick was Manufactured in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee
Most of the bricks used to pave Florida’s highways came from manufacturers in the south. Many streets still have pieces of brick named for the places where they were manufactured. Brick stamps may be Coaldale, Augusta, or Southern Clay Manufacturing. The photos are of actual original brick in south Florida.
Brick roads were durable, but the length of time and labor it took to lay brick discouraged maintenance. Today, concrete will often be poured over the old brick, using it as a base, rather than repair it the original more expensive way.
The beauty of old brick lends an ambience to a town or street and today scientists are working to create brick from ash particles of coal fired power plants rather than generating increased greenhouse gases from high powered kilns used to make traditional brick. One company, Freight Pipeline Company (FPC), claims the coloring and shaping of these bricks are similar to the clay brick without the pollution and wasted energy that goes into creating “real” brick.
There is something mystical about driving down or walking along old brick roads. The chemically resistant brick, pavers, and colored or textured brick available today illustrate the desire to continue a journey on brick roads, regardless of destination.