LaGrange residents rally to save
historic brick streets
By DAVID BAINBRIDGE
LAGRANGE - Usually it's the
buildings lining a city's streets that hold the city's history.
However, in LaGrange, a bit of the town's history lies in the
And now the preservation of that history is in danger.
On June 6, 1907, 47 railroad cars brought 260,000 bricks into
the town of LaGrange for the purpose of paving Detroit Street
from U.S. 20 to Factory Street, which lies one block north of
It took workers from the middle of July to the end of August
to brick Detroit Street.
The County Council was reportedly so impressed that they appropriated
$4,000 to have the other three sides of Courthouse Square bricked
in the summer of 1908. Also during that summer, the LaGrange
Town Council ordered three additional blocks paved with bricks.
This included two blocks on Spring Street, one east and one west
of Courthouse Square, and one on Lafayette west of Detroit.
Now, due to a state-mandated sewer separation and the costs involved,
the town might have to sacrifice some of the historic streets.
While Detroit Street has been paved, and some of the Spring Street
bricks have been covered with asphalt or concrete for repair
work, the rest of the brick streets were still in place until
earlier this year when Geiger Excavation of Fort Wayne began
work on the sewer separation project.
However, members of a community group calling itself the Save
Our Bricks Committee have rallied together to guarantee that
at least three blocks of the endangered streets will be rescued.
On Thursday, June 17, a crew of Amish workmen began re-laying
The cost for replacing all the bricks is approximately $125,000,
according to the committee, but the Save Our Bricks committee
has only raised slightly more than $93,000 to date. The committee
plans to continue to raise funds, but will only continue to have
the streets rebricked until the money runs out.
Town officials have expressed concern that paving will be disrupted
by the bricklayers' eight-week schedule, especially if a street
is left partially unbricked due to lack of funds and Geiger has
already pulled out of town.
Geiger representatives recently asked the Town Council to be
relieved of responsibility for the quality of the re-laying of
the bricks, a condition Town Council members granted.
The cost of restoring the brick streets was originally estimated
at $408,000, but due to volunteers joining the cause, the price
has been drastically reduced.
According to local businessman Joe Billman, who was recently
instrumental in revitalizing a section of downtown LaGrange storefronts,
"LaGrange is blessed (to have) historic brick streets ...
Throughout the years only minimal maintenance was needed to keep
them in their original condition. The brick streets are unique.
There are only a handful of such streets still in use in Indiana
According to the National Main Street Center, Billman said, among
the reasons to revitalize and preserve brick streets in American
communities are because the streets can serve as:
· A symbol of community economic health, quality of life,
pride and history.
· A stronger tax base.
· An incubator for new small business.
· A catalyst to concentrate retail in one area.
· A desirable feature which protects property values.
· A force to keep businesses in town.
· An attraction for tourists.