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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Korte Andrew

The Historic Brick Streets of Hinsdale: Evolution and Significance

Hinsdale, celebrated for its enchanting charm, historical buildings, and profound heritage, was initially documented by William Robbins in 1866. By 1873, the year of its incorporation, many of its earliest homes and community structures were already in place. Over time, Hinsdale flourished into a town distinguished by an array of architectural designs, representing over a century and a half of history. A noteworthy feature of this development is the village's historic brick streets.


With a legacy spanning over a century, these streets are not just thoroughfares but are emblematic of the village's commitment to the preservation of its history. This article delves into the history of Hinsdale's brick streets, drawing from various historical sources photographs to paint a vivid picture of their evolution and significance.



Garfield Street and First Street circa 1915. Garfield Street was once paved with brick from Ninth Street to Hickory Street. Photo from the Hinsdale Historical Society.


Early Beginnings

The journey of Hinsdale's streets began in the late 1870s when the village, saddled with dirt roads, began exploring options to mitigate dust and mud.[1] The Village Board's first solution was gravel, but this proved ineffective.[2] The pivotal change came in 1892 when the first paving contracts were awarded.[3] This period marked the beginning of a transformation, as prominent thoroughfares like Chicago and Garfield Avenues, County Line Road, First Street, and Washington Street were paved, some with brick and others with cedar blocks.


The brick paved streets were initially laid out in Hinsdale for roads that were heavily trafficked. J.C. Campbell, in his 1897 publication Hinsdale the Beautiful, marvels at the charm and functionality of these streets, noting their appeal to drivers, bicyclists, and horsemen alike. The work, he believed, was “done for a generation’s enjoyment,” a statement that would prove to be an understatement of their enduring legacy.



First Street east from Garfield. Circa 1915. Photo from the Hinsdale Historical Society.


Evolution

Over the years, Hinsdale's streets saw various changes. Washington Street, initially paved with cedar blocks, was repaved with bricks after the former was deemed a mistake in the 1890s.[4]



Washington Street facing north, circa 1920s. Photo from the Hinsdale Historical Society.


It is estimated that Hinsdale was once paved with 10 miles of brick.


By 1916, the village began incorporating asphalt and concrete for new roads and resurfacing old ones. However, the brick streets remained a significant part of Hinsdale's landscape for the time being.


Early records of maintenance difficulties and replacing the brick paving can be dated back to the late 1920s. The "Street Paving" publication from the Village Board highlighted the need for maintenance and potential resurfacing, as the brick pavements had started showing depressions.[5]


By 1935, the village had 2.8 miles of brick streets,[6] a number that dramatically decreased from the estimated 10 miles.


The following are the streets known to have been once paved with brick:

  • First Street from Washington Street to County Line Road

  • Garfield Street from Ninth Street to Maple Street

  • Hinsdale Avenue from Vine Street to Garfield and its adjacent alleys

  • Lincoln Street from Hinsdale Ave. to Chicago Avenue

  • Park Avenue from First Street to Hickory Street

  • Sixth Street from Garfield Street to County Line Road

  • Village Place

  • Washington Street from Second Street to Maple Street



Hinsdale Avenue between Lincoln and Washington Streets, 1926. Photo from the Hinsdale Historical Society.


At the time of writing, the only remaining brick streets are First Street from Park to County Line Road, Sixth Street from Garfield to County Line Road, and Park Street from Symonds Drive to Walnut Street.


Sixth Street and Robbins Park Historic District

Located in the Robbins Park Historic District, Sixth Street was paved with bricks in 1893 by C. & T. Inglehart.[7]Originally, Sixth Street “had originally been a double pathway with a median strip of trees and shrubs, but these were cut down when the paving was done.”[8]



Sixth Street and Oak Street, circa 1910s. Photo from the Hinsdale Historical Society


Over the past three decades, Robbins Park has been the focus of much of the preservation activities and historic research undertaken in Hinsdale. It was first planned by William Robbins in 1871 and includes many of Hinsdale’s oldest residences. In the 1990s, the village retained Historic Certification Consultants to survey all of the buildings within Hinsdale, including those in Robbins Park, and to identify architecturally significant and historically significant buildings. In this survey, Historic Certification Consultants named Robbins Park as historically significant noting “some of the streets are still paved with the original brick pavers.”[9]


Fast forward to 2008, the Robbins Park Historic District, known for its historic homes and brick-paved streets, was added to the National Register of Historic Places, underscoring the cultural and historical value of these brick roads.


The Robbins Park Subdivision's application for addition to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 emphasized the significance of these brick streets:

“Although street patterns differ in the two back to back subdivisions, all streets throughout the district are 66 feet in width. Most streets are asphalt paved, while Sixth Street, between Garfield and County Line, and First Street, between Park and County Line, feature brick pavers.”[10]
“Streets were paved beginning in 1892. some with brick and some with cedar block. Sixth Street within the historic district still retains its brick pavers, laid out in 1893.”[11]


329 East Sixth Street facing brick paved road, 1919. Photo from the Hinsdale Historical Society.


Preservation and Modern Challenges

Over the past few decades, Hinsdale has faced challenges of preserving its historic buildings, structures, and brick streets.


In recent years, the village has faced the challenge of maintaining these historic brick streets. In 2015, Hinsdale officials decided to invest in a combination of existing, new, and vintage bricks for repairs, a project that highlighted the community's commitment to preserving its heritage.[12]

“When it's time to repair the other brick streets in the village, which are not in as bad a condition as First, the same approach should be used.”--Hinsdale Village President Thomas Cauley Jr. in 2015 [13]

The total cost to repair all the brick streets with a combination of the existing bricks, vintage bricks purchased from outside Hinsdale, and new bricks was estimated to be $3.2 million in 2015.[14]


The Resilience of Brick

While the cost of maintaining brick roads is large in the short-term, in the long-term, brick paved streets are known to last much longer than asphalt or concrete paved streets.


The average lifespan of asphalt streets is 10 to 15 years, and the average lifespan of concrete streets are 20 to 30 years, however, long-term and short-term maintenance costs are significantly higher for these kinds of pavement, as potholes have to be repaired, streets have to be patched.[15] In comparison, brick roads have a lifespan of over 150 years.


While the cost per square foot of brick is much higher than concrete or asphalt, the lifespan of brick can be 10 times longer, which is in itself an argument for the long-term economic advantage of brick pavers.[16]


According to Preservation Chicago, brick paved streets have both immediate and long-term benefits for communities:

“reduced long-term maintenance and replacement costs, reduced potholes and emergency pothole repair costs, reduced street patches, reduced traffic speeds, significantly increased pedestrian and cyclist safety, ADA accessibility, environmental benefits, and visual benefits.”

In Hinsdale, we can see the echoes of this argument throughout history. In the 1960s, Hinsdale’s librarian and historical researcher, Mrs. Janet Millar, noted that “the first brick pavements do not appear to have been popular, perhaps due to their relative cost, although they have been most serviceable.”


Timothy Bakken reflected on the surprising durability of these brick streets in his 1976 book Hinsdale. Initially laid out for horse-drawn carriages and bicyclists, they have withstood the test of time far beyond initial expectations:

“Brick streets have for eighty years resounded to the clip-clop of horses and the whizz of autos, and for all of that they are still in amazingly good condition, a longevity record asphalt or concrete would have to go far to reach. ‘This work is done for a generation’s enjoyment,’ said J. B. Campbell in 1897–but he was wrong. Three full generations and then some have travelled upon Hinsdale’s brick streets, and hopefully, they’ll see three more.”[17]

Conclusion

While Hinsdale’s brick roads are not a historically significant building, they are, as emphasized in numerous surveys, National Register of Historic Places applications, newspaper articles, publications, and other documents, historically significant to the village’s history.


Hinsdale's brick streets are more than just pathways; they are a living history, a blend of practicality and beauty. As residents and visitors traverse these streets, they are walking on the same bricks that have borne witness to the evolution of transportation and the growth of a community. These streets, a blend of the past and present, continue to be a symbol of Hinsdale's enduring charm and resilience.


Sources Consulted In Research

  • Bakken, Timothy. 1976. Hinsdale. Hinsdale: The Hinsdale Doings. Accessed at the Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • Battistella, John. 1974. “Age-old bricks line suburban by-ways.” Stickney Life and Forest View, October 27, 1974.

  • “Brick Paved Streets and Alleys – 2018 Most Endangered.” 2018. Preservation Chicago. https://www.preservationchicago.org/brick-paved-streets-and-alleys/.

  • “Brick street issue laid out by board.” 1976. The Doings, February 19, 1976.

  • Campbell, J. C. 1897. Hinsdale the Beautiful. Accessed at the Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • Cultural and Historical Inventory, DuPage County. 1993. Wheaton, Illinois: DuPage County Regional Planning Commission. Accessed at the Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • Dugan, Hugh G. 1949. Village on the County Line: A History of Hinsdale, Illinois. Self-published.

  • Fornek, Kimberly. 2015. “Hinsdale’s brick streets will be a combination of old and new.” Chicago Tribune November 4, 2015.

  • Historic Certification Consultants. 1999. Hinsdale Reconnaissance Survey: An Inventory of Historic and Architectural Resources. Prepared for the Village of Hinsdale Historic Preservation Task Force.

  • Hopkins, R. S. 1935. The First Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.01, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • - - -. 1936. The Second Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.02, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • - - -. 1937. The Fourth Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.03, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • - - -. 1938. The Fourth Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.04, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • - - -. 1939. The Fifth Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.05, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • - - -. 1940. The Sixth Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.06, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • - - -. 1941. The Seventh Annual Report of the Department of Public Works to the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Hinsdale, Illinois. Hinsdale, Illinois: Department of Public Works. Accessed as A.22.12.01.07, Loc. Sh. 8A, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

  • “Intend to Pave Many Streets.” 1896. The Hinsdale Doings, October 24, 1896.

  • Lannom, Pam. 2023. “Sixth Street residents want to keep brick.” The Hinsdalean, December 13, 2023.https://www.thehinsdalean.com/story/2023/12/14/news/sixth-street-residents-want-to-keep-brick/7203.html.

  • “Miles of Pavement to be Laid.” 1897. The Hinsdale Doings, April 24, 1897.

  • Millar, Janet (Mrs.). c. 1960. “Special Assessments.” Accessed as #A.23.02.007.125, Loc. EPH, Series “Administration: Village, Streets,” Hinsdale Historical Society Archives, 302 South Grant Street, Hinsdale, Illinois.

  • “Paving Ordinances Passed: Trustee Hess Protests Against Second Street, Board Works Until Nearly Midnight.” 1897. The Hinsdale Doings, June 12, 1897.

  • “Robbins Park Historic District.” 2008. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places: Registration Form, 15 October 2008. https://s3.amazonaws.com/NARAprodstorage/opastorage/live/70/8927/28892770/content/electronic-records/rg-079/NPS_IL/08001098.pdf.

  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Hinsdale, Du Page And Cook Counties, Illinois. 1898. Sanborn Map Company, February, 1898. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01928_003/.

  • - - -. 1909. Sanborn Map Company, January, 1909. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01928_004/.

  • - - -. 1919. Sanborn Map Company, 1919. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01928_005/.

  • “Street Paving.” 1931. Hinsdale: Village Board. Accessed as #A.23.02.007.120, Loc. EPH, Series “Administration: Village, Streets,” Hinsdale Historical Society Archives, 302 South Grant Street, Hinsdale, Illinois.

 

Reference Notes

[1] Bakken, 1976. 165.

[2] Bakken, 1976. 165.

[3] Millar, c. 1960. 2.

[4] Bakken, 1976. 165-166.

[5] “Street Paving,” 1931.

[6] Hopkins, 1935.

[7] Bakken, 1976. 166.

[8] Millar, c.1960, 2.

[9] Historic Certification Consultants, 1999.

[10] “Robbins Park Historic District,” 2008. Section 7, Page 4.

[11] “Robbins Park Historic District,” 2008. Section 8, Page 33.

[12] Fornek, 2015.

[13] Fornek, 2015.

[14] Fornek, 2015.

[15] “Brick Paved Streets and Alleys – 2018 Most Endangered,” 2018.

[16] “Brick Paved Streets and Alleys – 2018 Most Endangered,” 2018.

[17] Bakken, 1976. 166.

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