Monday, September 29, 2014

I found a brick in the woods

I've discovered many astounding things in the forest preserves near where I live and work. A ten-point buck, a coyote, many wildflowers, even a "Posthenge."

Last week I found a brick. Oh, not just any old brick, but a Purington Paver, which was manufactured in East Galesburg, Illinois. The Purington Paver Brick Company was once the largest maker of bricks in the world.

There it is. Among the dirt and scattered concrete debris that was used to create the bridle path east of the Des Plaines River in Dam Number 4 Woods East in Des Plaines, Illinois, although there are many more walkers, cyclists, and runners on that trail now.

After dirt streets came brick-paved streets--and Purington Pavers could be found all over the Midwest, particularly in Chicago, but also as far away as Panama and Paris.

Paving bricks have to be durable.

Writing for The Zephyr in 2000, Terry Hogan explains:
Paving bricks start out life fundamentally different than your average building brick. Paving bricks require a mixture of clay, shale, sand, and "flux: (described without edification as, "A mixture of substances that promotes fusion at high temperatures."). Paving bricks, like those made by Purington, gained their strength and durability through kiln firing. Firing caused the brick's content to react chemically (via vertrification) to create a strong, impervious brick.
Or more succinctly, they have to be really, really strong.

Making bricks is labor intensive and so is building brick-paved streets. After World War II, constructing concrete and asphalt thoroughfares made more economic sense for cities and towns and by 1949, Purington ceased making pavers. In 1968, Charles Schott purchased Purington and he left the company to his wife when he died in 1974, the same year Purington closed its doors.

I'm sure you've heard of Mrs. Schott. Marge was for many years the controversial principal owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Schott maintained ownership of the Purington factory grounds until her death in 2004.

As for the bricks, over sixty years later they are still coveted items.

You never know what you'll find in the woods until you go there.

Related posts:

Ronald Reagan Trail: Carl Sandburg

Ronald Reagan Trail: Galesburg

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