MOUNT VERNON — Tearing out the bricks on South Gay Street is a project that has been in the works for a long time, but the work is now under way.
The first part of the project is replacing a main water line on part of the street. Before any underground work is done, however, the bricks will first be salvaged. The bricks will be stored behind the water plant on Ohio 229, west of the city.
Once the bricks are gone, a bit of nostalgia remains: the old sandstone curbs. Used before cement came into wide use about a century ago, the slabs of sandstone are about 4 1/2 inches thick and about 2 feet wide, and appear to range in length from 9 to 15 feet.
On streets which have not been paved over, the sandstone curbs measure 6 1/2 inches above the bricks. In comparison, on other steets which have been paved several times with asphalt, the pavement may be even with the top the curbs. Mount Vernon City Engineer Cameron Keaton said many of the sandstone curbs are broken, and cannot be reused. However, Keaton said there is a provision in the contract with the firm repaving the street that any sandstone curb which is whole, will be saved. The same applies to the bricks.
The pavement on South Gay Street is so deteriorated the Mount Vernon Fire Department has not routed its fire trucks and squads over the street for several years. Heavy truck traffic has caused the bricks to sink down where the trucks’ dual wheels pound the pavement.
The streets were paved with brick just after the turn of the 20th century, and were not meant for weights at least 80 times heavier than a team of horses pulling a farm wagon. Keaton said the streets were built with concrete underneath the brick, but now, he said, the concrete is largely broken up.
Keaton said the new street will have 6 inches of 304 stone base — that is, a mix of sizes — and 12 inches of asphalt in three layers, all of which will support the heavy trucks.
Terra Valley Excavating is doing the work. Growing up on his parents’ dairy farm on North Liberty Road, Terra Valley owner Ralph Robinson said his father delivered milk door to door in Mount Vernon.