With all of the road maintenance that is currently ongoing in Story City, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the roads were originally paved for the first time 100 years ago. Through research into the 1917 and 1918 editions of the Story City Herald, I was able to learn the specifics of the materials used, the paving company hired, which streets were paved, and the time it took to complete. We also have several photos of the process in our photograph collection, a few of which we are sharing here.
In the March 29, 1917 edition of the Herald, a notice of intention was printed that stated the town council intended to pave, grade and to build curbs and gutters upon and along certain streets and parts of streets in Story City. It was announced in the June 14th edition that the paving resolution had passed at the city council meeting that week. The council would be asking for paving bids that would include Broad Street from the Northwestern depot at the west end to the park on the east end. The bids would also include Pennsylvania Ave a block north and a block south of Broad St. The proposed paving would be about 27,000 square yards, and about 800 feet of additional curb and gutter would also have to be built.
The bids were opened on July 2 at a special council meeting and seven different companies were represented. The bids were as follows on the various kinds of pavements:
Bitulithic — $2.29, $2 34 $2.37.
Class “A” asphaltic concrete, $2.29.
Class “B” asphaltic concrete: $2.21, $2.29.
Asphaltic concrete without, the binder course: $ 1.99, $2.11, $2.15.
Class “A” sheet asphalt $2 29.
Class “B” sheet asphalt $2.20 and $2.24.
Monolithic brick of various methods of laying: $2.35 to $2.82.
Semi-monolithic vitrified brick: $2.79 and $2.97.
Concrete pavement: $2.15.
The prices for extra excavations ran from 49 to 65 cents per yard. The bids for paving across the Northwestern tracks were made separately and ran from $3.50 to $7.50 per yard.
All of the above prices were for the square yard. According to the Herald editor P.A. Olson, “The prices, as we understand, are a third more than those paid by the larger cities two years ago — but goodness knows when they will be any lower.”
It was announced in the July 12th edition that the council had chosen vitrified brick for the paving method with the contract going to Cary & Sons of Clinton, and their bid was $2.35 per square yard. The contract called for the completion of the project by Nov. 1.
As the community was waiting for the paving project to begin a few weeks later, P.A. Olson wrote of a petition in the July 26th edition. “Some excitement was stirred up the fore part of the week by the rumor that a petition was being circulated to get out an injunction to stop the paving work. So far nothing has come of it, although a number of signatures were obtained, we understand, in the residence blocks affected by the paving. To most of us the opposition which is developing now appears rather ill timed, as it will be pretty expensive to institute what at best can be only a period of delay. Better not do it.”
The excavating machines started on August 22nd to cut down the high spots on Broad Street, cutting out six to 12 inches of graveled dirt all the way down the street. With a 14-mule grading machine and half a dozen dumping wagons, the top of the old streets were peeled off at the rate of 250 to 350 yards a day. A large portion of the dirt was dumped in the parking on Park Avenue north of Broad Street due to a low spot there that tended to flood. The street grading portion of the project was completed within two weeks.
The brick pavers finally arrived in Story City towards the end of September. It was reported on Sept. 27 that seven train cars of brick had arrived on one train with five more cars yet expected. Two local men, Clifton Wier and Elven Hovland were given the contract to haul the brick from the train cars to the street.
From the Oct. 11 edition of the Herald: “The long looked for paving gang put in its appearance Monday morning — and now you ought to see how the brick is going down on our main thoroughfare. The present gang comprises about half a hundred men and they are covering about a quarter of a block per day, or four days to the block. The paving gang is largely recruited from our own city. A noteworthy feature of the work is the way several, of our “retired” farmers are dipping into it, and those middle aged men are doing “their bit” in hastening on the big paving job.”
It was reported on Dec. 6, 1917, that the paving of Broad Street from the depot to the park was almost completed except for a narrow strip near the park. The weather had been good in November so the men could work almost every day. However, December brought on cold weather and the project was delayed until spring. The paving contractors, Cary & Son, did not meet their November 1st deadline, but they were back in Story City in the beginning of April 1918 to finish the project.
Broad Street was completed by the middle of May and it appears Pennsylvania Avenue was completed by August as the figures were on file at the office of the town clerk showing the cost of the paving. It was reported in the Herald on Aug. 8 that the property owners along the paved streets must pay the paving assessment by the following Monday or else they must sign waivers giving them the opportunity to pay the assessment in seven yearly payments. The total cost of the paving project would have been at least $64,450 based on the square yards of paving area, which would equal to $1.2 million in today’s money.