The Vagabond – Steppingstones in downtown Gadsden

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By Danny Crownover

In June of 1897 under the direction of Alderman Obal Christopher, the City of Gadsden began to grade and chert most of the downtown streets.

Many visitors later remarked that Gadsden had the best dirt streets in the state. All of the main streets, both downtown and in the residence sections, were eventually cherted.

A local newspaper commended the project but suggested that the sidewalks should be paved, adding that it would be a waste of money to improve the streets and continue to permit cows and hogs to run at large which would do more damage to cherted streets than the traffic.

The paper added that there would be much opposition to any plan to take the hogs and cows off the streets, but pointed out that after a hard fight, Chattanooga, Tenn., had accomplished just that.

In March of 1900, city alderman Otto Agricola, who was chairman of the street committee, informed the city council that he and his fellow committee members, J.H. Holcombe and W.H. Sutton, had decided to pave Broad Street from Third to Sixth streets and then lay down chert. What was interesting is that the committee decided to remove old steppingstones that had been in use since just after the Civil War.

The stones, which were located at Third, Fourth, Court, and Fifth streets and in the middle of the block between Third and Fourth streets, provided the means of crossing Broad Street in all kinds of weather and were regarded as necessary.

In wet weather Broad Street became very muddy, so much so that wagons frequently mired to the hub in front of the courthouse. The stones also made it possible for women to cross Broad Street without soiling their long dresses.

The hope was expressed by some residents that the electric car line would lower its tracks to conform to the street grade, which could not be done satisfactorily until brick paving was put down about 10 years later.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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