Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Quite Simple Really

I remember reading about the design for the work to be done on Route 131, and one of the things mentioned was a brick sidewalk at the Town Common.  At the time I thought this was a nice touch, maybe not a period touch, but a special touch for the center of the town.

Now, there seems to be a clinker in the bricks.  The state engineer notified the town recently that the contract for the sidewalks specifically mentions a plain grey sidewalk at the common, and anything else will either increase the price, or pass the maintenance of the sidewalks to to the town, or both.


What happened?  Wasn't everyone on the same page?

To have a bit of a decorative accent on the sidewalks at the town common if fine, but cost must be considered, and maintenance as well.  Of all the options offered from stamped resin on asphalt to real bricks, to stamped concrete, the stamped concrete is the best.

Believe me.

For years I worked with  "Boston City Hall Paver" bricks I had placed around my pool.  The weather moved them about, lifted them, and made hollows in the deck.  I lifted them out one by one, added, or subtracted sand, and tapped each one in over and over again for years.  Lots of maintenance, lots of work, lots of swearing.  Real brick walkways just require constant maintenance.

Now, a concrete walkway with either an accent strip, or the entire walkway stamped with a brick pattern will stay put.  It won't require the maintenance of real brick, and will visually give the eye the soft, "period" touch the designer(s) is looking for.  There area few benefits to this:  1) it will not cost as much as using real brick, 2) it will last longer than resin covered asphalt, and 3) it will not affect the maintenance of the sidewalk. It will still be concrete.

Some communities actually use this stamped concrete on their crosswalks as well.

Hmmmmm....I wonder.....


  1. Signed: Tripped and Fell Flat on My Face on a Brick Sidewalk and Have the Scars to Prove itTuesday, July 20, 2010

    It's very easy to trip and fall on a brick sidewalk. If one tripped and fell off the brick sidewalk and onto Route 131...

  2. Whoa, tripped: watch where you're walking!

    You could just as easily have tripped and fallen on a concrete sidewalk with a crack in it (or broke your mother's back.) Or, up or down the town hall steps; or on the slippery granite floors in the high school. These brick sidewalks are not going to be placed in sand; they will be placed on top of concrete so there should not be a lot of movement.

    Not that I don't sympathize with your fall and your "scars" but there are many cities and towns that use brick. When it's done right, it's beautiful and safe.

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    If only we were all as sure footed as you! Age and other factors have affected some of us adversely, and we do find brick sidewalks to be less safe and more difficult than concrete, even with an occasional crack. Town Commons have traditionally been places used in common for all of the members of the town, and yes, even animals when need be. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everything that is pretty to look at is the best choice in life.

  4. On you landing page, did you spell Sturbridge incorrectly on purpose?

  5. No, my fingers were moving faster than my head. Thanks for the heads up!


  6. I think you missed part of my statement, Gimpy; I said the brick was going to be placed in concrete, not beds of sand.

    I've been to Fanueil Hall in Boston and ruined some beautiful new high heels on that brick. I also thought I was going to break my neck because the brick was lifting and heaving in places. I would not support brick sidewalks with sand beds. Not only would it heave and be dangerous, but weeds would be a problem, too.

    If you haven't walked on a concrete/brick sidewalk before, I can understand your concern. But brick placed in concrete is secure and the walking surface is level. Shrewsbury Street in Worcester is the perfect example of an excellent brick sidewalk job. So, once the safety playing field is leveled, the only thing left to think about is aesthetics.

  7. RE:"So, once the safety playing field is leveled, the only thing left to think about is aesthetics."
    ...and construction cost, and liability, and maintenance, and ice and salt and sand and extra hours for the highway department and...

  8. Stay on track, Brittle; we were talking about safety and aesthetics.

    If you want to now talk about cost, liability, and maintenance (which is extra hours by the highway department), ice and salt, then let's do.

    Nothing is free these days. Anything worth having is worth paying for and will cost a pretty penny; also, one only gets what he or she pays for. If you want to buy concrete sidewalks, that's that status quo and forgive me for saying so, but it's also boring.

    I presume you are a resident; so am I. I am willing to pay for this and extra maintenance, plus take that risk that may increase liability because it will beautify the Common and the Publick House, two places which were voted to be special out of 1,000 places in MA. Actually, it would be great if parts of Fiskdale had brick sidewalks, too.

    We (you and me) are from different generations; I can tell this because I don't have brittle bones yet. But not only am I willing to pay for the special treatment to those areas, I plan to wear good shoes and pay attention to when and where I walk. The opportunity to apply such a treatment to a most historic-looking and commercially sensitive part of town just makes sense to me.

    It's unfortunate that you fear such improvements, but I hope you will consider this option as a new thing to experience, enjoy, and be proud of.

  9. Well said, Dearie.
    I can see where you're coming from and where you're going. As far as being in your generation - been there, and even then didn't wear blinders. Pay your money, live your life, enjoy your town, be proud of your history (Is it your history? It has been mine for generations.), show off your town, bring in your money, live long and prosper. I think the brick sidewalks on 131 are costly and unsafe. Live YOUR life and please don't try to deny me my right to voice my opinion. You are not or more important than anyone else, and your opinion, though your thoughts are different than mine, do not come from a superior mind.
    By the way, it has already been stated by the head of the highway department that the special care needed for these sidewalks will mean extra hours of work. The state does not approve of them and it'll be "on the town."
    Another thing: Do you really believe that only old people have brittle bones? You always seem to "speak" with such authority...

  10. Sidewalks are made for walkingThursday, July 22, 2010

    Dear Anonymous,
    RE:"...I am willing to pay for this and extra maintenance, plus take that risk that may increase liability because it will beautify the Common..."
    You are willing to take the risk that may increase liability? That reminds me of the man who was willing to take the risk that his dog would bite his neighbor again because he was willing to pay the bills. Cold comfort for the neighbor. Perhaps he would rather not be bitten????

  11. Anonymous wrote that she thought brick sidewalks would "beautify the Common and the Publick House." I did read that the Publick House had offered to pay a set sum of money to defray or help defray cost for building a brick sidewalk on their side of the street outside of their establishment. I have not seen anything about them paying for the extra maintenance. (They already use part of the Town Common for their front lawn.) If the Publick House gets a brick sidewalk, what's to stop other commercial enterprises in town from requesting the same deal? It seems that the more we get, the more we think we need in this town. No, thanks. We don't need brick sidewalks.

  12. Regarding the safety issue and brick sidewalks, Anonymous wrote, "But not only am I willing to pay for the special treatment to those areas, I plan to wear good shoes and pay attention to when and where I walk." This issue is not one of a person nature to me, but it is one of liability. That being the case, I guess my suggestion to Anonymous would be that signs be posted for tourists, worded as follows: "Welcome to Sturbridge. Wear good shoes and pay attention to when and where you walk."


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