With their shovels, spades and hoses in hand, residents of a one-way street on Buffalo’s West Side have a new rallying cry:
“Bring back the brick.”
The brick in question is the weathered brick road that city paving crews partially uncovered Monday on Ardmore Place, behind Lafayette High School.
Workers laid those bricks more than 100 years ago, in the first decade of the 20th century, and they’ve been covered by layers of asphalt and blacktop for more than 40 years – until Monday, when city workers removed the blacktop layer and enough pieces of asphalt to reveal the hidden treasure, which dates back to the horse-and-buggy days.
Ardmore Place residents are thrilled. They’ve been out on the street, chipping away at the asphalt layer, hosing off the decades worth of grit and waging a public-relations campaign to bring back their brick street.
Lots of reasons: because the brick street would be unusual on the West Side, giving the street a charming, rustic look; because it would slow down traffic, making it safer for young children; and because it would provide an added sense of character, as a tribute to a bygone era.
“We’re not old-fashioned,” longtime resident Dom Parisi, 84, insisted Tuesday. “I like modern stuff, but I also like things from a different time, when there was a slower pace, everybody knew each other, and you didn’t have to lock your door. Now everything’s so rush-rush.”
Renee Wiedemer, president of the Ardmore Place Block Club, said she’s “absolutely passionate” about bringing back the bricks, in part because the city has lost so many parkways, buildings and other historic treasures.
The effort to restore the brick surface also has been a huge unifying force on Ardmore, which runs from Baynes Street to Richmond Avenue, one block north of Lafayette Avenue. From preteens to octogenarians, residents have taken to the streets to chip away at the asphalt cover and hose down the weathered bricks.
“This is something we’re excited about, that brings the street together,” Wiedemer said. “It all adds up, brick by brick.”
City officials said they’re evaluating the condition of the bricks, to see what the restoration would cost.
“What’s been exposed seems to be in good condition, but we want to expose more areas,” City Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said late Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re definitely very interested in the history of Buffalo,” he added. “This is a unique situation, so we’ll do our diligence to see how much restoration is needed and what it would cost.”
Wiedemer, the Block Club president, is asking the public to join the Ardmore Place cause, by showing up starting at 8 a.m. Saturday with a shovel or spade to remove the asphalt.
Roger Vullo, 60, has lived in a brick house on the street for the last 25 years. He believes that his home was built between 1900 and 1910, out of the same bricks that have been uncovered on the street.
“It’s more durable,” Vullo said of the brick surface, noting that it’s the same type used on Buffalo’s inner harbor. “It’s more Buffalo. It is Buffalo.”
Patty Parisi-Lupke, Dom Parisi’s daughter who voiced the “Bring back the brick” mantra, said that keeping the old brick street would make Ardmore Place stand out, almost like a piece of artwork, compared with the cookie-cutter street surfaces in most of the city.
Ardmore Place residents didn’t rediscover the bricks until late Monday afternoon. Dom Parisi was sitting on his porch, when Eric Bauer spotted the red brick under the asphalt.
Wouldn’t it be great, Bauer asked, if they could restore the street back to its brick surface?
Parisi then called the Mayor’s Office, launching the streetwide effort to start removing the asphalt.
“What we’ve been able to uncover, 90 percent of it looks beautiful,” Bauer said, citing the few rough spots that might need some repair.
Rich Lupke, Parisi’s grandson and Parisi-Lupke’s son, admired the time-worn color that surfaced once all the grit had been hosed off.
“I kind of like the weathered look,” the 24-year-old said. “I think it looks great, with the half-red, half-black, rustic look. If it was brand-new and jet-red, I don’t think it would look as nice.”
Longtime Ardmore Place resident Leila LaSpisa, after consulting with her 89-year-old mother, Linda Maggio, estimated that the bricks were paved over in about 1969 or 1970.
“I remember when my mother was very upset the first time they did it,” she said. “She said today she’s threatening to lie down in front of the (paving) trucks” if the city tries to repave the street.
LaSpisa thinks her mother was kidding but quickly added, “She’s that passionate about it.”