Downtown sidewalk brick dividers on the way out

Contractor crew I took this photo Wed. morning of a contractor removing several sections of the crumbling red brick embedded in the sidewalk on the east side of Division St. downtown. They later filled the sections with plain concrete.


  1. John S. Thomas said:


    I took a walk downtown this evening, and did a little analysis.

    The inlays in the concrete from 2nd to Bridge Square are all brick, crumbling really bad, and becoming a public hazard. Many areas have been removed and concrete put in its place.

    From Bridge Square to 6th, the inlays are a red tinted concrete with heavy gravel. Not one that I could see was damaged.

    I would guess that the brick is being removed, as it is of poor quality, and is a liability. Many have heaved, and someone can easily trip.

    Perhaps, they will go back and redo all of the concrete to these tinted rock inserts at a later date.

    Concrete is a quick inexpensive alternative to leaving them exposed with the rains… and they are already cut, so hammering them out and repouring them should not be too difficult.

    The brick sure was a great idea… but the brick they used was really of poor quality, and did not hold up well. It seems to be that it was only a couple of years since this was done.

    April 26, 2009
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for that, John. But now that you mention the “red tinted concrete with heavy gravel,” I’m wondering why that wasn’t used for this latest round of repairs.

    April 27, 2009
  3. John S. Thomas said:


    The only thing I can “guess” upon is perhaps the red gravel concrete is mixed and delivered by truck batch, and it is not cost effective to replace it as they remove the brick.

    Sounds like a question for Joel / Public Works, or the NDDC? They should know what is happening downtown right? 😎

    April 27, 2009
  4. john george said:

    Griff & John- This whole idea of brick inlays is not new. My son was telling me about some of the problems. The most relate to the different expansion/contraction rates of fired clay tile set in concrete. Clay tile is also porous, so there are crevices for water to penetrate and cause cracking when the water freezes in the winter. Years ago, streets were laid using cobblestone. One reason these lasted longer is that the bricks were set in sand over a gravel base, thus allowing for expansion in the winter and drainage during rains. They were also rough as a “cob.” Was that the reasoning behind the name “cobblestone?” I doubt it, but it makes for a good story.

    April 27, 2009
  5. Dan Freeman said:

    Finally!! The red brick plague is nearly over. In the mid-seventies when this version of creating a consumer friendly downtown enviorment, I was a part of the task force. (#4006 in Northfield Task Force history) The Director of Streets and whatever at the time was Curt Olsen. He said at the time, and I quote, “This ain’t Florida, it freezes here and then thaws and those bricks are gonna be heaving all over the place.” (I was seated right behind at the time) He also warned of the same thing happening to the grates over the oversized trees that were being planted at the time. Of those he said, “Just you wait until your shoveling the sidewalk on a cold winters day and you hit one of those things with your shovel. It’ll send a shudder right through you.” I took his side then and now I fondly get to say goodbye to the first part of the equation. Now lets say goodbye to the huge trees that are still here. No, I’m not a tree hater. The problem is that these trees are too big for a downtown that prides itself on historic buildings. The Miller Boys, Dennis and Lowell, who were in the tree business at the time, also warned of a problem with the roots eventually doing damage to the sidewalks and even the streets. The trees were, and still are, simply too big for the holes and the street scape. Perhaps there is some kind of smaller green plantings that we can replant where the trees now stand. Thank you and, Goodbye Crimson Brick Road or sidewalks.

    April 28, 2009
  6. Gabriel Rholl said:


    You said:

    The trees were, and still are, simply
    too big for the holes and the street
    scape. Perhaps there is some kind of
    smaller green plantings that we can
    replant where the trees now stand.

    I disagree with this point. I’d rather keep the trees, which do add a great deal of aesthetic value to the downtown area. One of the best example’s I’ve seen of the affect that trees had on Greenville, South Carolina’s downtown:
    From this:

    To this:

    If there were some way to adapt the sidewalks to the trees (even by completely removing the metal grates, if possible) I would find it much more preferable. The trees do not block the buildings– they accent them.

    April 29, 2009
  7. Gabriel Rholl said:

    I guess the images don’t quite work. I’ll sub in the links to the pictures instead.

    Before, and after.

    April 29, 2009

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