Recently we discussed the early efforts to pave various Athens streets and one of these was the main thoroughfare of Tyler Street. And since it was such an important street in Athens the process involved a lot - both officially and practically. Let’s continue the story.
The Athens Weekly Review of August 5, 1926 described what happened as details continued under the headline “City Instructs Contractors to Start on Paving Job.” The reporter began by relating that part of the progress was holding a hearing for property owners along Tyler Street and how finally the city commission approved the work and ordered it to begin.
They could apparently do this because at the hearing there was very little objection and it was discovered that the expected opposition did not materialize. Several Athens business leaders testified and “All four testified that in their opinion paving would enhance the property in value to the amount of cost of the paving,” as the reporter wrote.
State Senator and Athenians history author J. J. Faulk at the meeting also “discussed the matter in length in an effort to find out just what had been done by the city.” He also expressed his concern that paving might produce drainage problems on his property, yet the mayor assured him that would be taken care of.
Other persons who lived on neighboring streets that were yet to be paved attended the hearing as interested witnesses.
The work was started later with some official ceremony as related in an article in the December 2, 1926 Athens Weekly Review under a headline that read “Ceremonies Mark Laying of New Pavement Tuesday.”
“All preparations had been made when the officials arrived on the scene,” wrote the reporter then the article continued by describing the actual proceedings. “With Mayor John Spencer laying the first brick and Commissioners Gauntt and Newbill laying the second and third respectively actual paving got under way on Tyler street Tuesday morning.”
To assure a permanent record of the events, the ceremony was photographed by the Athens Review photographer as there was snapped a close up of the mayor as he laid the first brick and then city officials posed for a group picture.
However, after the ceremonies were over and the paving began one particularly skillful workman got the reporter’s attention. This was LeRoy Powell and he was supposed to be a champion Texan brick layer. Reportedly, he could lay four rows of brick at a time and it was said that it took 14 men to provide the bricks, but even with all that help Powell was supposed to require rest time between rows. The reporter related: “Timed by the watch Powell laid seventy-seven brick or at the rate of 154 a minute.” Throughout the day he was estimated to handle 100 bricks a minute during the day. “Powel uses two rubber pads on his hands and he can actually lay brick faster than a person can count,” In fact, “within a period of fifteen minutes he had completed a stretch of about eleven feet the width of the street.”
There were more statistics. To pave the entire length of Tyler Street required ninety cars loaded with bricks. Each car would have to be loaded with 7,000 to 10,000 bricks so it was estimated that to complete the paving job it would take about a million bricks.
The paving job began as “a gravel base is topped with a cushion of sand on which the brick are laid.” Then the reporter continued: “As fast as a block of the pavement is laid it will be topped with an asphalt coating and sand and then would be ready for traffic.” It was to be the same type of surface that was used on the courthouse square.
In the same issue of the paper there was also a notice that Prairieville Street was next to be considered for paving after residents along that street petitioned for the process. Property owners on Royall Street had also appealed to the commission for their street to be paved. However, action for that location would not occur right away since “no orders were given as the commission desires to confer with the school board relative to the street joining the property of the high school building.”