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Hyde Park to Tampa: Leave our brick streets alone

The neighborhood association wants the city to promise via an ordinance to not remove their community’s historic street bricks.

Hyde Park and Ybor City are both historic districts teeming with bars, restaurants and vintage structures.

Both also have leaders pushing for their main thoroughfares to be lined with bricks, as each was decades ago.

Hyde Park has a better chance of succeeding.

The red clay blocks that once paved Seventh Avenue were removed decades ago, and the city does not own enough of those bricks to fully pave it.

Meanwhile, most of the original bricks that paved Howard Avenue from Bayshore to Kennedy boulevards are still there, hidden under asphalt.

So, until Tampa has the funds to expose those clay blocks and properly recreate that brick road, the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association wants the city to promise via an ordinance to not take any of their community’s historic pavers covered by asphalt.

“We want a commitment,” said Patricia Summerville, the neighborhood association president. “Do not pull up the bricks.”

Her association — representing an area roughly bounded by Kennedy Boulevard to the north, the Selmon Expressway to the west and Bayshore Boulevard to the south and east — fears they could lose bricks in the coming years as the city fulfills its vow to update Tampa’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Patricia Summerville points to exposed historic street brick on Howard Ave. The brick to the right in the photo is part of a sidewalk. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Patricia Summerville points to old, exposed brick on South Howard Avenue. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]

“Every time they rebuild a water line there will be roadwork,” said Del Acosta, a historic preservationist and member of the neighborhood association. “If in that work they have to pull up the bricks, we want them put back and not thrown in a pile. Cover them with asphalt again if that’s what they prefer but do not get rid of them.”

In a letter to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, neighborhood association president Summerville explained that brick streets are preferable because they calm traffic, are cooler in the “hot summer months,” contribute less to storm water runoff than asphalt, enhance home values and would be a “primary character defining feature of Hyde Park.”

The city has an ordinance protecting its current 41 miles of brick streets but there are no measures to preserve the historic pavers under asphalt.

Tampa City Councilman Bill Carlson, who represents Hyde Park, supports protecting the covered bricks too.

“I am in favor of restoring all the brick streets, but the city does not have the budget to do it at the moment," he said. "We need to preserve them for when the funds are there.”

Old Augusta bricks pave the road on West Bay Street in Hyde Park's Spanishtown Creek neighborhood. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]

Tampa’s streets were sand when it was established in the 1800s.

Bricks were embraced at the turn of the 20th century.

The city primarily used bricks from Georgia Vitrified Brick & Clay Company, made in Augusta. According to the Augusta Museum of History, the now-defunct company provided bricks for more than 730 Tampa streets.

Other manufacturers included Copeland-Inglis of Birmingham Ala. and the Baltimore Brick Company.

The city turned to asphalt beginning in the 1960s.

Ybor lost most of its brick streets in the 1970s. Some, such as Seventh Avenue, had the bricks removed. Others, like Fourth Avenue, had the bricks paved over.

Howard Avenue’s bricks were covered in 1981, according to Tampa Bay Times archives.

Bricks are exposed on that thoroughfare from time to time when the asphalt cracks, but they are always paved back over.

Spanishtown Creek is the only Hyde Park neighborhood still with streets completely paved with the original red clay blocks.

In June, the Ybor City Development Corp. began researching the cost of re-bricking the one-mile span of Seventh Avenue from Nuccio Parkway to 26th Street.

READ MORE: Tampa is interested in re-bricking Seventh Avenue. But they can’t find the bricks

They learned early on that it would be difficult, because there are no original pavers under that road.

The city could purchase freshly manufactured bricks, but historic preservationists prefer authentic pavers.

The city has a stockpile of Augusta block, but it is reserved for maintaining Tampa’s existing brick streets. That inventory is sometimes replenished by bricks found under asphalt during repair work.

Summerville of the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association wants to make sure her community does not contribute to that supply.

“We advocate for historic preservation,” she said. “Brick streets distinguish a historic district. It says to people you are now going into a historic part of Tampa.”