The day they paved the roads in Phoenix for the first time, 1911
Since I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the web, one of the most common complaints that I hear is that Phoenix has been all "covered with asphalt", over "paved over". And I know what that means, and I agree. As someone who enjoys walking, I know how terribly hot asphalt and concrete is. It's harsh and unforgiving on my weak ankles when I walk. I've seen concrete poured all over places, like over by the I-17 freeway and Cactus Road, that looks really, really terrible. And when I walk across an asphalt parking lot in the summer I can actually feel the terrible heat burning up through my sneaks.
But I'm a time-traveler. And I also see a lot of old photos of Phoenix before the streets were paved. And it must have been terrible. In the summer, very dusty, and when it rained a mass of mud. So when I found the article at the top of this post, from 1911, I tried to imagine how people felt. They must have been thrilled. Of course, it was a very limited area, and many streets in Phoenix went unpaved for a very long time, but it must have been wonderful.
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Like most people I know, I've never lived anywhere without paved streets, and sidewalks. I take it for granted that whatever the weather is like, I won't have to walk in mud. And even when the wind blows, it doesn't stir up dust from asphalt, or concrete. I've never had to scrape mud off my shoes after walking in any city where I've lived. So it's hard for me to imagine how awful unpaved roads were, but now that I think about it, I'm sure they were. And the paving must have felt like a little bit of heaven once it was done. And I imagine that people were just hoping for more, and more.
Image at the top of this post: 1911 article about the paving of streets in Phoenix, Arizona.
Posted by Brad Hall