Yesterday's News

Town's first concrete sidewalks appeared over a century ago; some of original projects still in use today

By FRANK BOYETT, Gleaner staff
October 30, 2005

One of Henderson's oldest and largest existing public works lies right beneath your feet.

Few people notice. I'm indebted to Dan Becker for bringing this topic to my attention several years ago, and apologize to Dan for taking so long to write about it.

But sidewalks are an awfully big topic to wrestle with. Granted, they're not the most exciting thing to talk about, but believe me, if you had to slog through knee-deep mud you'd have a much deeper appreciation of them.

Henderson's earliest residents laid down wood planks so they wouldn't bog down in the mud.

But those networks wouldn't stand up to heavy use and were awkward when meeting on-coming traffic.

Next came stepping stones, particularly at street crossings; boardwalks and brick sidewalks came into vogue later in the 1800s.

The first concrete sidewalks didn't appear locally until 1904; they were exposed aggregate -- concrete in which pebbles can be seen -- which is why at first they were called "granitoid" sidewalks.

As near as I can determine, based on research in the office of City Clerk Carolyn Williams, the first concrete sidewalk in Henderson was probably laid on the north side of Second Street between Main and Water streets.

But maybe not. There had been talk as early as March 1903 to pave Green Street between Clay and Powell and put in a sidewalk on the east side.

Residents of Green Street, however, were divided into east-side and west-side camps, and that project appeared to bog down in controversy.

Another early sidewalk was on the west side of Main Street between Fifth and Seventh streets. In fact, portions of that project -- the sidewalk in front of Bill and Elizabeth Sullivan's house at 517 N. Main St. and part of the sidewalk near the intersection with Seventh -- are apparently the oldest existing concrete sidewalks in Henderson, dating back to 1904. I should point out, though, that there are older brick sidewalks still in use on Jefferson and Clay streets.

At any rate, once the city fathers discovered the benefits of concrete, they went on a building spree. Many of the older residential neighborhoods are still served by sidewalks laid down nearly a century ago. Lots of those old projects have the name of the contractor and the date stamped at intersections.

"The city of Henderson now has 20 blocks of granitoid sidewalks," proudly stated The Gleaner in its last issue of 1905. "Twelve of these blocks were constructed during the year 1905, and eight blocks in 1904, under the supervision of City Engineer S.H. Kimmel."

That fledgling concrete sidewalk system more than doubled in size 100 years ago with the annexation of what was then called Parkland, which was a subdivision developed by Charles F. Kleiderer bordered roughly by Elm, Green, 12th and 14th streets.

"Previous to the sale of the lots Mr. Kleiderer had 13,000 feet of granitoid sidewalks laid around and about this property," The Gleaner reported.

Besides being the first subdivision to be annexed with concrete sidewalks, Parkland also holds the distinction of paving way for the annexation of Atkinson Park; Parkland's addition made the park contiguous to the city.

Kleiderer planned quite a party to auction off the lots in his subdivision. "When you hear the band making its rounds on the street cars this morning or at any time today, you may know that the sale is going right on and those wishing these lots should not hesitate to go right up and get in on the ground floor," The Gleaner reported on Oct. 25, 1905.

But heavy rain caused him to cancel the initial sale and reschedule it a week later.

Henderson's poor benefited by his bad luck, however, because Kleiderer donated to the needy the 600 rolls of bread he had purchased.

The weather cooperated on Nov. 1, and Kleiderer sold 15 of his 47 lots. "A delightful free lunch was served on the grounds," and Johnny Huhlein's band "furnished exquisite music for the occasion."

Parkland was a desirable residential area for several reasons, foremost of which was that it was right on the streetcar line, which ran up Elm Street.

All told, by the end of the second day, Kleiderer had realized more than $13,000 from his land speculation. By Christmas of that year most of the lots in the subdivision had been sold.

75 years ago

The son of the president of the United States ordered a couple of living room suites from a local furniture manufacturer, according to a 1930 article in The Gleaner.

Herbert Hoover Jr. had ordered the furniture from Delker Bros. for use in his "Blue Briar" cottage in Asheville, N.C., where he planned to recuperate from tuberculosis.

50 years ago

The Gleaner announced that J. Albert Dear, president of Dear Publication and Radio, had been invited to help manage the paper, according to a 1955 article in The Gleaner.

Dear had leased the paper with option to purchase, and closed the purchase in July 1957. The newspaper would continue under the Dear family's leadership until 1997.

25 years ago

The southern bypass had been on the drawing boards since 1972, but was no nearer to completion eight years later, according to a 1980 article in The Gleaner.

Construction was originally scheduled for the summer of 1977, but began in the fall of 1982, and the bypass didn't open to traffic until July 1985.


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2006 HCH&GS