Public Works Department 1914: Building Roads

Public Works Department 1914
Building Roads with the Rock Crusher

A recent unrelated search through the “Stamford Government” section of the photo collection revealed interesting photos of the famous rock crusher, which the town purchased in 1909 to build roads. These photos were obviously made between 1909 and 1914, though we don’t have the exact dates. These photos were referenced to a The Guide to Nature magazine article of August 1914, the text of which is copied below.

Names below have been highlighted by the editor of the article. Some of the images below were also part of that article, but we choose to use our actual photos.


Guide to Nature masthead August 1914Turning Stone Walls into Roads.

To go from the city into the wild nature of the suburbs and surrounding country the first essential is a good road. Stamford is solving the problem of making good roads economically by grinding up the stone walls. It may not be known to all residents of Stamford just how extensively and economically this work is being carried on, and certainly it will be of interest to our readers in other places to learn of the successful experiment of turning stone walls into roads.

Everywhere in New England there are plenty of stone walls but in many places there are not good roads. So, as the old-fashioned saying goes, why not let one hand wash the other; that is grind up a few of the stone walls and improve some of the roads? Far be it from us to advocate banishing all the picturesque stone walls, but there is no danger of doing that, for a few stone walls go a long way in making enduring roads.

Stamford is proud of its roads, but, of course that does not mean that all roads have yet been put in the most desirable condition. The work progresses every year and in the light of what has already been done the outlook for the future is favorable. The credit for this is in large part due to Selectman William R. Michaels for his untiring efforts in application of his knowledge of making an enduring road at least cost.

In the fall of 1909, on the recommendation of the Board of Selectmen composed of  J. G. Houghton, William R. Michaels and J. J. Looney, the town, represented by Mr. Michaels, purchased a portable stone crusher from the Climax Road Machine Company, for $2,011. I t is less than five years since the crusher was started on the Emmet L. Weed property in Springdale, Mr. Weed being the first townsman to donate stone for road construction. During these five years eight miles of durable stone roads have been built under Mr. Michael’s supervision. Less than $500 have been paid for re pairs on these roads, and most of this expense was incurred on Hope Street in the necessary repairs after the laying of gas and water pipes. Hope Street, from North Springdale to the Glenbrook trolley junction, and Crescent Street and Courtland Avenue, Glenbrook, Newfield Avenue, Belltown Road and Oaklawn Road are among the Stamford roads constructed of native stone. Among those who have donated stone for these permanent roads are Messrs. Weed, Mathews, Toms, Raymond, Rothchild, Coe, Kerr and Robbins and Dr. Barnes, the latter being the largest contributor so far having to his credit many thousand tons from stone fences on his property. continued below

Note: Most if not all images in this column are taken at Poor Farm on Scofieldtown Road
rock crusher on Scofieldtown Road
rock crusher on Scofieldtown Road
rock crusher on Scofieldtown Road
Image below—and two details of it—shows the laying of rocks and is also labelled to have been taken at Poor Farm on Scofieldtown Road, but this may not be correct.
laying rocks on Scofieldtown Road
laying rocks on Scofieldtown Road, detail from above
laying rocks on Scofieldtown Road, detail from above
Oaklawn Road completed
Oaklawn Road

The Oaklawn Road, the cross road not long since completed near the city limits, connects Newfield Avenue with North Stamford state road and is about one mile long. It is built with a traveled path sixteen feet in width and the ground stone was spread from twelve to eighteen inches in depth. All the stone from the Dr. Barnes property, together with tons blasted in the fields near the stone crusher, has been utilized in making this one of the most durable stone roads in the town of Stamford, so good a one in fact that the present Board of Selectmen are much pleased with the success in making Oaklawn a permanent road. With the completion of this and Belltown Road, Hope Street, Glenbrook, is now connected with practically a continuous crossroad near the city line that can be used with safety the year around whereas during the winter and spring before any work was done on this road as many as seventeen auto trucks were mired.

The Belltown Road has a traveled path twenty feet in width, with an average depth of ground stone of sixteen inches, and it is safe to say that for durability it will favorably compare with any macadam road in the town of Stamford. The length of this road is about two-thirds of a mile, and to put it in its present good condition required nearly three thousand tons of stone all of which was taken from the Barnes tract. So appreciative of this road are the residents of Belltown that after its completion they built at their own expense a waiting station near the trolley track.

trolley waiting station, Belltown

Trolley Waiting Station at Toms Road & Hope Street

The Newfield Road, much used by automobiles, was a problem on account of its wet condition. More than one mile was dug up in order to provide sufficient depth for an underdrainage of stone on which ground stone more than one foot in depth was spread in order to prevent heaving or buckling. Good drainage is an important factor in the construction of a. road and if in the rebuilding of the Newfield Road such provision had not been made it would have heaved and rutted badly. Newfield Avenue is noted for its fine view of Long Island Sound while riding over it in a southerly direction.

Belltown Road  completed Newfield Road completed
Belltown Road Newfield Avenue
Toms Road
Toms Road completed

Notwithstanding the fact that the town has not a full equipment of road building machinery, the eight miles of native stone roads have been constructed at an average cost of $4,200 per mile, this amount including the price of the stone crusher Since the annual town meeting of the year 1910, $5,000 have been appropriated for permanent stone roads and from $2,000, to $2,500 annually for the maintenance of the stone crusher. The ‘above price per mile also includes the installing of drain pipe, the widening and rebuilding of stone bridges and the blasting of unsightly stone near the gutter line.

Mr. Michaels is a man familiar with the road conditions at all seasons of the year, and thereby eminently fitted for his task. He has made it a rule to engage stone in advance from property owners nearest the section of road needing improvement, thereby saving expense of hauling from a distance. After the Selectmen approve the Michaelizing [sic] of the road, work starts in proper season under Foreman Samuel Ferris, a thoroughly reliable and practical man and a road builder from boyhood. The engineer and other employees are worthy of commendation. That the town of Stamford can boast of its durable roads built of native stone at a low cost is due to the cooperation of property owners with this force of practical men



Editor’s Note: It did not always work perfectly of course. There were drawbacks. The images below were taken after a washout on Farms Road. William R. Michaels (to the left) and John Moore, brother of Mayor Charles E. Moore, 1938-40, viewing a washout on Farms Road.

washout on Farms Road - Jonh Moore & William R. Michaels washout on Farms Road - Jonh Moore & William R. Michaels

Photos © Stamford Historical Society


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