Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Bricks Of St. Augustine

Here's an old St. Augustine tour guide joke...."DON'T STEP ON THE GRAVES !"
(see brick upper left)

As you walk the streets of the nation's oldest city you will see four or five various brands of brick below your feet. There's an old story that ,back at the turn of the century, St. Augustine benefactor and promoter Henry Flagler offered the City of St. Augustine, pallets of brick to pave the streets.When the city was slow to accept, Henry simply had them delivered and they were set down at the locations he wanted paved. The city supposedly relented and laid the bricks as Flagler wished.
The recent completion of the Aviles St. rehab had city workers carefully replacing these old bricks as it was back in 1900. Not long ago a portion of St. George Street was also repaved with brick.Here is a story about the Southern Clay Mfg. of Robbins, Tennessee and a story by Peter Guinta of the St. Augustine Record.
The work of producing brick was a backbreaking process done mostly by African American workers making 1.50 a day in the 20's and 30's The employees were forced, by company policy , to purchase their household needs at the "company store".They were also charged rent for the company owned shotgun houses with no running water. Many ended up in debt to the company, playing catch up when the monthly bill arrived. Southern Clay shut down operations in 1939.
Our city's history is all around us. In the foliage, in the people, the buildings and underfoot.African American contributions are  plenty and are only now, beginning to be recognized as it should.

1 comment:

  1. I was told that the little "graves" are from the Great Hamster plague of 1843.