Reflections by Sammy Way: Brick streets were once common in Sumter

Posted 5/12/19

Reflections looks back about a hundred years to a time when Sumter had few brick-paved streets. Most were lined with large oaks, however, which provided shade and beauty for the Sumter community. Most Sumterites were proud of their brick streets and …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Brick streets were once common in Sumter

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Reflections looks back about a hundred years to a time when Sumter had few brick-paved streets. Most were lined with large oaks, however, which provided shade and beauty for the Sumter community. Most Sumterites were proud of their brick streets and were eager to see their city completely paved and sidewalks made available, allowing citizens to walk in comfort. The author of Reflections made extensive use of an article published in 1915 by then City Clerk, C. M. Hurst, concerning how the paving of city streets helped spell progress for the city and expedite change in a big way. Several photos and additional resources were obtained from The Sumter Item archives.

Mr. Hurst noted: "Twenty -one years ago (1895) the streets of Sumter were mostly sand beds. There was not a foot of improved roadway in the entire town. The sidewalks were little better, although there were small sections of brick here and there for four blocks on Main and Liberty Streets. It is difficult for everyone to realize that vast improvements against big odds were accomplished. This enhancement was because the work has been done all over the city and left no neglected portions to stand out in sharp contrast with favored sections. Constant and intensive labor and many thousands of dollars were represented in the better streets and walks. A few thousand dollars were expended for concrete sidewalks, mostly on Main, Liberty, Bartlette and Church Streets along with Hampton Avenue.

Much of the improvement in the sidewalks was realized with the sale of $225,000 of street improvement bonds. Even with comparatively little of what could be called permanent paving, Sumter is, nevertheless, a well-kept town, and pedestrians may travel with a fair degree of comfort on better-than-average walks. This improved condition also pertains to the streets. Sand and clay, careful grading and constant attention to the problems at hand, have accomplished a great deal. Sumter, for years, had its man behind the scenes in the struggle against sand beds and ash heaps. That man was Len E. White, superintendent of streets. What little permanent paving Sumter had at that time was in the business section of the city and covered seven or eight blocks of Main and Liberty Streets with the best vitrified brick. Some of the original brick paving still exists on South Main and several more of Sumter's downtown streets.

One of the main topics to be discussed in Part 2 of this Reflection occurs when the city and county fathers collaborated to iron out problems attributed to faulty drainage.