Paving Central Avenue
Original story as told during Kearney Centennial Brick
paving of Central Ave. was done by one black man while rest of the crew
prepared the street bed and brought him the bricks.
Over the years the detail was added that being black, the crew had to camp
outside the city limits at night.
record of sources for that story survived
of newspapers and our Archives photo collection does support that story but
evidence was hard to find and the details of the paving were interesting,
providing some new information
First Paving Plans 1910 Feb. 14, 1910 – Kearney
Commercial Club held the first of a planned series of bi-weekly meetings
to discuss the welfare of the city.
Topic of meeting was paving Central Ave.
General sentiment was that it should be done without delay and that it
should be brick.
July 19, 1910 – Paving District #1 approved – the alley between Central and
1st Ave, Railroad to 22nd St.
Brick suggested, but material to be used not decided.
Paving District #1 finally completed, done in cement paving
Paving District #2 approved – 21st St west 1 block, then south 1 block to
north Railroad St.
January – Paving District #3
approved – Railroad St. from 1st to Central
John A Beebe of Omaha awarded contract to do Districts #2 and #3 3 inch
base of concrete; with covering of 3 inches of sand ¼ inch
space around each brick, fill with hot asphalt which would be spread over
April – Grading began; about 20 carloads of brick stacked on curbs of
streets to be paved.
[A year later] – 1915 – Finally the year
of the paving of Central
– New city council meeting for first session considered Paving District #4,
an ordinance to pave Central from Railroad to ally north of Midway Hotel. Planned to pave 2 blocks at a
Prepare bed in one block and while being paved it, prepare the next block.
Provide the least disruption of the street as possible. [Good
idea but didn’t work out that way, prepared more than a block at a time]
May – Advertised for bids to pave Central Avenue from 18th
to Lincoln Way
July – Contract awarded to John A Beebe Company of Omaha.
(same company that did paving of Dist. 2 &3 around block from 21st to1st to
RR to Central
Project to start no later than August and be completed by October 4 Beebe
said he intended to start as soon as possible.
170 carloads of brick would be needed. Labor,
with the exception of one or two expert brick layers, to be done by Kearney
men – if available
[Proof that one man laid all the brick]
month - Beebe behind on paving work in Nebraska and Iowa, largely due to
Was afraid he would not be able to start the Kearney job
Agreed to transfer the contract to E. D. Tynor Construction of Kansas City.
City council approved
Mid-August – Street Paving Work Delayed Tynor’s equipment had not arrived
All workers could do was remove curbing and make preliminary arrangements.
14 – equipment arrived and but work delayed by rain 4 days
later grading began on Central Ave on the first three blocks south from
But brick had not arrived yet.
August 25 – Large crews at work
under grading and laying the concrete crown on Central.
[This was season of lots of farm work – haying & then corn picking, probably
no local labor Archives photo
of black work crew – proof a black man laid the brick The
brick had been unloaded but concrete needed about 10 days to dry before
brick could be laid
Week later – Construction was
This time due to the lack of a sufficient supply of gravel for the concrete
Another gravel pump had been ordered but had not arrived yet.
– Testing of the paving brick done by Councilman Bolt and City Engineer
10 bricks were placed in the testing drum and spun for one hour
To pass the test brick was not to show more than 20% wear.
Mostly this brick did better than that.
Then they did another test: chunks of other building materials used in
Kearney were added to the barrel with the 10 street bricks
–curbing made of hard concrete, granite, old street crossing concrete, and
After the hour the paving brick were still there but all the other materials
were gone. They had all powdered.
September 14, 1915 – Intersection
at Lincoln Way and Central reopened after completion of brick laying
1915 – (almost a month later) The bricklayers were working south of
Since the laying of concrete was done, Tynor loaded his equipment for
shipment to Grand Island. Two
days later his equipment was unloaded to be used to pave the Seedling Mile.
1915 – (Friday) Last thing - The sand needed had been hauled.
Brick had been laid beyond 19th St. midway to 18th.
1916 November 3rd, a Friday night
Two men in the “colored colony” working with the paving gangs [for West
Lincoln Way] had an argument One man
pulled a knife and cut the other one under the right arm and on the chest.
cuts were not deep but apparently he bled a lot and was “covered [with
blood] from head to toe” when he stumbled into town looking for a doctor.
The attacker took off but he was back to work the next day
Color had not
been mentioned in 1915 – Nothing newsworthy, like that fight, happened