A closer look at newly discovered wooden street in Philadelphia | Photo: Ted Savage
As it turns out, the 200 block of Camac Street isn’t the only wooden street in Philadelphia.
According to the most recent newsletter from the Dickinson Square West Civic Association (DSWCA), repaving efforts from the Streets Department unearthed a stretch of what is believed to be original wooden blocks in the parking lanes that flank the 400 block of Reed Street (map), adjacent to the former Mt. Sinai Hospital site.
The newsletter details the conversations between DSWCA and David Perri, Street Commissioner: “’The paving work is stopped until an appropriate course of action is determined. We will evaluate the situation and report findings. Unlike Camac Street which was replaced many times over at least some of these wood blocks could be original. I would advise folks to be careful handling the blocks as they were likely coated in creosote.’”
Visibly, some of the “bricks” appear well-worn and splintered, while others are neatly packed into tight rows.
“These blocks were so dirty, you wouldn’t know that they were wood. One of the neighbors noticed it, cleaned it up and later confirmed it,” Perri later told Property, while strongly advising not to pick up the Creosote-soaked blocks. “It’s not a material you want to expose yourself to.” Creosote is toxic preservative historically used as a pesticide and to treat wood, and the Coal-Tar variety is commonly found in railroad ties, utility poles and, most likely, these (potentially century-old) wood pavers.
Unlike the square blocks on Camac Street, the newly discovered blocks are 4-in by 8-in and give the illusion of being a piece of traditional cobblestone, according to a neighbor. Perri said that they were thinking that those were the common dimensions used to build wooden streets in the early 1900s when they restored Camac Street, and that, for the first time, the Reed Street find gives them “positive confirmation” of this method. “We’re excited because this is the first one that we’ve found that has the orginal wood blocks in place,” said Perri, “We believe they’re original.”
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