Recently my husband and I went exploring to find sections of the "Old Brick Road" in Florida, in our area. We had heard that there was a eleven mile section of the road near Espanola, FL, another small section in Bunnell and another section in Palatka. I'm happy to report that we found all three areas. However, the bricks from the Bunnell are in a park near where the road once was dedicated to the man who helped bring the old brick road to Bunnell. However, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
The first area we went to was the "Old Brick Road" in Palatka. Today most of it is covered with pavement or removed, but there is a small section of the road that remains and goes to the private residence of the current owner. However, the original road connected with the original bridge over the St. John's River in Palatka on Col. Hart's orange grove. Above is the picture of the road going towards the river.
Colonel Hart played an important part in the steamboat industry on the St. John's as well as the orange industry. He also helped with the growth and development of Palatka.
The current owner of the property lives in a house built in 1944 from bricks made for the old brick road. One tidbit you might like to know about these bricks is that they were vitrified bricks. It was a special process that took several days to fire the bricks. I picked up a broken brick from the side of the road and it was incredibly solid. And it was a hundred years old. You'll note that in the first picture that grass is growing through the bricks. I didn't see that on the longer section in Espanola to Hastings.
There were five different brick manufacturers who made the bricks, and I found only three. I photographed each one to show you what I've found so far. The first is Rockmart:
The second was Graves:
And the third was Southern Brick:
The road was built in 1914-1917. Some sections took even longer. It was 9 feet wide and had a cement curb on both sides of the road. Here's a picture of the curbing. Note that in this section someone had put in a bit of a side walk. I don't know if that was to widen the road or to allow for foot traffic.
This section of the old brick road was a part of the original Old Dixie Highway. Which was moved over to Rte 1 a couple decades later, making Espanola virtually a ghost town. There are a few homes in Espanola but nothing else. I've read that the workers would subsidize their earnings by catching baby alligators to sell in curio shops.
What I found fascinating about this eleven mile section of road was how the area looked natural to Florida and it's variety of plant life and various environments. Here are a couple of pictures to show the differences.
There aren't many details about the old brick road that I have uncovered so far. I know there are more details available, I just have to research it some more. But if you're ever in the area of Hastings or Espanola, I highly recommend you find the Old Brick Road. You won't be sorry. It does take about an hour to travel the eleven miles, possibly a little less if you don't stop to take too many photographs.
Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 40 years. Lynn's newest novel "Winning the Captain's Heart" released the first of this month. It is the first in her Historical St. Augustine, FL. series.
Check out her 19th Century Historical Tidbits Blog if you like exploring different tidbits of history.