The elements of paving the City of Manistee

Continuing on from the previous weeks topic of Mayor Michael Fay and the original paving of Manistee’s city streets, we have to keep in mind that prior to said paving, the city streets were nothing more than dirt or cedar block that had been installed several years earlier.

A view of the corner of Third and Oak Street before the city’s streets were paved. The Wente Home (before it was renovated) stands to the right of the photo.

A view of the corner of Third and Oak Street before the city’s streets were paved. The Wente Home (before it was renovated) stands to the right of the photo.

As the city fathers were looking to not only beautify the city as well as provide its citizens with a sense of progression, talk of using brick to pave the streets began to take place around the turn of the century.

After several insistent issues (i.e. purchase bonds, streetcar rails, etc.) were agreed upon by city aldermen and voters, more trying issues also needed to be addressed; issues such as “Who the heck are we going to get to do the paving work?” and more importantly, “What kind of pavement do we really want to go with?” As the weeks of the summer of 1902 whittled down, the answers to those questions, as well as a bubbling controversy surrounding the cost of the materials needed to commence the project, began to develop.

In mid-June of 1902, City Clerk W.H. Pfeiffer mailed out specifications and forms to 17 contractors with whom the City of Manistee was interested in receiving quotes from in regards to paving the city streets. Included in these inquiries were two estimates for two different materials that the city was interested in using for the project. A brief explanation on these choices was published in the Manistee Daily News on June 13, 1902:

“The choice of materials lies between bituminous macadam, which has a continuous smooth surface like asphalt, and vitrified brick. Each has some advantages not possessed by the other. The bituminous macadam is practically noiseless and the first cost is not so great as brick, but it is not so easily repaired in case it becomes necessary to take up a portion after laying.”

Just a few days later, the city aldermen had not only reached a decision on the material but they had also chosen the contracting company that would do the work. The verbiage, submitted the Street Paving Committee and accepted by the city alderman, reads as such:

“To the Hon. Mayor and City Council of the City of Manistee, Mich:

“Your committee on Street Paving to whom was referred the bids submitted and fled with the City Clerk for the various kinds of street paving for which bids were solicited by this Council, beg leave to report that they have opened and carefully examined said bids, the total footings and substance of which are as follows:

“The Ohio Bituminous Macadam Co., the total footings of their proposal being $118,487.00.

“The Hoosier Construction Co., the total footings of their proposal being $117,650.93

“The Central Bitulithic Paving Co., the total footings of their proposal being $106,227.17

“(The above three bids are for bituminous macadam.)

“The Ayers Asphalt Co. make a proposal to pave with sheet asphalt the total footings of which are $116,703.93.

“The above bids or proposals are made upon the estimated amount of paving required to be done and in accordance with the specifications submitted by this committee.

“After a comparison of the proposals submitted, we find that the bid or proposal of the Bitulithic Co. is $10,476.75 lower than the next highest bid, we therefore respectfully recommend that their proposal be accepted.

“The recommendation was accepted.”

Additionally, it was also recommended by Alderman Merritt (chair of the committee) to purchase a steamroller at a cost of $3,277. With no objections, a proposed start date of July 1 (about two weeks from the time of the June 17, 1902 meeting) was set.

As interest in the elegantly named material grew, the Daily News provided a description of bituminous macadam in their June 19, 1902 issue. Portions of that article follow:

“Very few Manistee people have seen bituminous macadam. It can hardly be distinguished from asphalt which is so common in large cities. It is continuous smooth surface rolled onto a solid foundation while it is hot. The curb is of the kind known as the combined curb and gutter. Between the car tracks vitrified brick will be laid.

“The surface dressing is a patented combination of bitumen and mineral particles. A thoroughly solid foundation of stone is first built very much like a macadamized road. This is compressed by means of a 30-ton roller. The bitumen and pulverized stone is mixed at a convenient place near the work, and is dumped on the foundation while still hot and plastic.

“As it cools it is rolled smooth and even The result is a waterproof surface that is almost ideal in every respect. It is not so slippery in wet weather as asphalt. It is quite as smooth as to surface and it has an elasticity that brick and stone do not possess. This renders it nearly noiseless as compared with brick. It has the same cleanly qualities that asphalt has and is really washed and swept. In these two latter respect it is in keeping with hygienic ideals, as the noise and filth of city streets are the main drawbacks to healthful conditions. The elasticity of the bitumen is a great advantage ‘in saving horses’ hoofs.

“For the greater part of the distance the new pavement will be 36 feet wide. Leading as it does from the north to the south end of the city it will have an enormous amount of the traffic and will undoubtedly result in a revival of bicycle riding to a degree.

“As the project progresses the water and gas pipes will be laid in front of every lot to the curb so that the pavement need not be disturbed afterward for this purpose. Worn out pipes will be replaced with new.”

Due to several timetables (the contractors, the testing of materials, a contract with the railway company whose tracks were being replaced) not aligning, July 1st came and went without any work commencing on the streets. While it was said in the Daily News that, ‘There have been so many delays that a skeptical public seems justified in believing that Manistee’s new pavement is like a castle in Spain’, work finally began on the streets on July 22, 1902. A vivid description was published in the Daily News the following day:

“First Street is a busy looking place now-a-days. Gangs of workers are strung out for several blocks. This afternoon the moulds were set up for the combined curb and gutter, and about half past three the first concrete was run in the moulds in front of the First M.E. Church parsonage. The work will go forward so rapidly now that the street and water department will be kept extremely busy in making sewer and water connections fast enough.

“The many thousand cords of cedar blocks which will be taken up are likely to prove quite a source of obstruction to the contractors. It is likely that the public will be invited to haul them away for firewood.”

In addition to the new steamroller, the city had also acquired a machine for testing the amount of cement that was to be used in the new pavement. It was stated that the specifications for the mixture required rigid tests as, “When the cement is used it is mixed with three parts of sand and seven of clean gravel. These ingredients are mixed with as little water as possible. The gravel costs about one fourth as much as cement; and the sand practically nothing, so the concrete is much cheaper than cement.

The topic of having the right mixtures of gravel and granite and the costs in what was originally agreed upon was later brought up by Alderman C.A. Waal (the former chairman of the Street Paving Committee) at the next city commission meeting. A brief summary of Waal’s question, which would grow into a pretty big controversy (one that we will take a look at next week) was published in the Manistee Daily News on August 6, 1902:

“When the routine business was completed Ald. Waal asked if the paving committee had no report to make. The mayor replied that the chairman was not present. Ald. Waal continuing, asked if the specifications on file at the city clerk’s office were to be observed in the new pavement.

“These specifications required the use of granite whereas gravel was being used. The mayor asked Mr. Todd (the primary engineer of the project) to explain the matter. Mr. Todd pointed out that the specifications called for the use of granite or the equal thereof and he considered the gravel which was being used equal. Mr. Waal replied that might be true but that the city had bids on granite from $3 to $4 whereas the gravel was worth about $1.40 to $1.50. He would like to know who was getting the benefit. If it was going back to the treasury all right. He would like to know if this was what the city had employed experts to draw up the specifications for, and was that all the explanation which could be made.”

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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