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Retro Rewind - Posted May 26, 2017 noon
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Image from Amarillo Public Library Archives

City Street Crew

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Contrary to what many readers might think, this is not a current photo of road construction in Amarillo. Instead, this image of a city street crew dates back to an early paving project in 1928. Operator Howard Lawrence has been identified by the unknown owner of the original photo.

Lined by wooden sidewalks, Amarillo’s earliest roads were paved only with a hardened layer of dirt. The town’s normally dry weather and constant wind meant permanently dusty downtown streets. Wagons and carriages negotiated potholes and left deep ruts. When it rained or snowed, however, that dirt turned to mud – and made a huge mess. Early residents referred to Polk Street as “Loblolly Polk,” referencing an old-fashioned word for gruel.

Then came the automobile. By either 1903 or 1904 – the reports vary – the first horseless carriage arrived in the city. It was either a one-cylinder Cadillac owned by Dr. W.A. Lockett or a one-cylinder Oldsmobile owned by Charles Tolleson. Regardless, as these vehicles began to grow in popularity, local drivers wanted better streets. In 1910, citizens voted to lay brick paving across 20 or so blocks downtown. Today, approximately 16 miles of those original brick streets remain. By the late 1920s, most new roads were being added with blacktop, asphalt-based paving. The location of this photo is unknown.

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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