I have a feeling you may have been expecting that the first pictures we'd post from
Chicago would be of the amazing skyline, or a detail from one of the city's architectural gems.
Instead you have before you a paved section of an old alley that sits behind the Cardinal's
(as in Roman Catholic Cardinal's) Mansion, at the southern edge of Lincoln Park. I was hoping this small stretch of alleyway was still there after all these years, and found it a little worse for age, but still intact. Why paving blocks in an alley you may ask? Because of the unique quality of the material that was used to pave the alley - wood blocks.
Yes, those are thousands of wood blocks and they once covered hundreds of miles of
Chicago's streets. Samuel Nicolson inventor of the Nicolson Pavement System, started laying wood pavers in Chicago in the 1850s. The pine blocks were soaked in creosote, an oily tar substance, that made the wood resistant to water and insects. They didn't last long under the stress and wear and tear of horse hooves and steel rimmed wheels, so they were eventually were replaced with stone or brick blocks, but this alley, and one or two others, still survive.
It's amazing how many great buildings are torn down and converted into asphalt parking
lots. Isn't it ironic that a surface, which would seem destined for asphalt, has remained in its original condition after all these years? I was happy to see this little alley still tricking the eye of the casual observer.