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One hundred years ago, brick streets lined every neighborhood in Chicago Heights. They were the lifeblood of the city.

Today, though, only ONE brick street remains. After over 110 years in service, it is in disrepair and is under threat of removal, and replacement with asphalt, as the infrastructure below the bricks – not the bricks – is now failing. The street has endured many years of large and heavy truck traffic to, and from, the steel mill.

Many of us in Chicago Heights have fond memories of our most famous brick street, passing by Chicago Heights Steel and then turning to the south, venturing under the tracks and having it open and arriving in the Hill Neighborhood. It has served as a teaching moment and gives us a window to our past. Many communities do not have this rare resource.

As the city’s Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, we have been advising strongly (since 2012) for this important resource. Our idea is that a portion should be saved (perhaps as a thick crosswalk) and then part of the street (that is not currently brick) after the entrance to the steel mill, around a corner through a viaduct, should be reconstructed in brick. That area can be used as an interpretive spot to tell the story of over 100 years of steel production on the site, the many workers traveling along the road to the steel mill from The Hill neighborhood, as well as construction techniques through our history. We found a grant that could be applied to such a project, but no one has moved on this, and the deadline has passed. City officials have offered to “save the bricks for a future project”.

Brick streets are a historic treasure, but they also have many positive qualities:

*Brick streets last longer than asphalt streets, yet they do cost more to repair

*Brick streets naturally slow down traffic (good for safety around sharp bends, or neighborhoods)

*Brick streets are better at slowing down freeze/thaw jacking

*Brick streets offer better drainage than blacktop/concrete