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Stories: Brick Roads

Photo of Houston brick paved roads circa 1910. Image scanned from Houston Fire Department 1838-1988

As if Houston’s roads and potholes today aren’t rough enough, imagine bumping along a brick road. That’s exactly what we uncovered while digging under Washington to connect new water lines in the course of renovating Fire Station No. 6. Firefighters called Houston the “Mud-Hole” because they often had to pull their rigs through muddy streets.

Filling Mudholes with Brick

Bricks were a welcome change from the muddy roads that plagued Houston during its rapid growth in the mid-19th century.  Improvements began in 1882 when two blocks of Main Street were paved with limestone squares laid over a gravel base and 15 blocks of Franklin and Congress Avenues were paved with gravel.

Various materials were later tried, and by 1903 Houston had 26 miles of paved streets including nine of brick, six each of asphalt and gravel, three of bois d’arc blocks, and one of macadam. By 1915 Houston had 196 miles of paved roads.

After the First World War and the rise of the oil industry, the use of oil-based artificial asphalt became more popular as a street paving material. By 1930 many brick plants had closed their kilns.

Today, our roads still cause problems, not because of mud, but because of inadequate drainage.

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About the Author

Since 1998, Axiom has thrived as a hybrid advertising agency/marketing communications firm that fuses marketing strategy with compelling creative to solve business problems and drive opportunities for clients worldwide. Based in Houston, Axiom provides corporate and product branding, advertising and media planning, integrated screen and print programs, and investor relations materials with an emphasis on creative solutions for energy-focused companies.

Comments (2)

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  1. Bob Sennhauser says:

    Your history of the old Houston Fire Station #6 is wonderful. I have been photographing all the changes on
    Washington Avenue and in the Washington Avenue Corridor since July 2007 and will continue to do so for three more years. Have taken over 8,000 photographs, and am doing oral interviews, hoping to get 100+ of them from the homeless up through the major developers. Had a show of the beginning of the project, at the Lawndale Art Center, and photographs in groups shows in Texas and other states. When I am done I hope to put all the materials in a historical archive. If I can raise the funds, I hope to present the entire project somewhere, perhaps the New World Museum, on Center Street, in the Washington Avenue Corridor. Thus, all the hundreds of individuals who have been generous with both information and their time, and allowed me to photograph them and/or their property can be present.

    I am excited to see that Axiom is interested in the history of Houston and sharing it. Thought that I knew a fair amount about Station #6, but after going through your web site, I am much better informed. Thanks!

    Bob Sennhauser

    • Tom Hair says:


      Thank you for your comments. What a cool project you have created and continue to work on. We need to compare notes sometime soon. Thank you for writing. And if you think you can afford it, we would love to see you purchase a Fire Station 6 T-shirt.


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