When four people tripped and fell during Dade City’s Church Street Christmas celebration in 2000, the incident triggered an unexpected outcome.
The strollers were enjoying a holiday outing when they stumbled across holes in the street where asphalt paving had worn through to the brick street beneath.
The city’s director of public works, Ron Ferguson, reported at a January 2001 City Commission meeting that no one was injured.
But, what to do about the holes in the street?
According to records obtained from Angie Guy, Dade City’s city clerk, a consensus was reached.
The city’s historic preservation advisory board recommended that city crews “strip asphalt from Church Avenue” and make repairs with salvaged brick and new brick, if necessary, “to significantly enhance historic preservation in Dade City.”
The City Commission agreed to the brick restoration “after considerable discussion and on recommendation of staff.”
Removing the asphalt without damaging the bricks would prove to be no easy task, according to a St. Petersburg Times report from some 16 years ago.
“With all the work that has to be done just on a daily basis, we did not think we could do it,” Ferguson told the newspaper.
On April 5, 2001, the city started a “pilot program” with five city employees, a Bobcat Skill loader, a Caterpillar backhoe, a 10-yard dump truck, and some improvised hand tools.
In his progress report to the City Commission, Ferguson indicated that a 2-inch layer of asphalt had been cleared on Church Avenue from Eighth Street to 17th Street.
Work was done “after 9:30 a.m., to allow school traffic time to leave the area,” Ferguson’s report said.
Additional equipment was needed to clean “fine pieces of crushed asphalt and dirt” by using a tractor equipped with a water tank and the city’s street sweeper.
It cost a total of $4,133.78 to expose the layer of red bricks that had been laid more than 70 years ago.
Each one of the bricks was from the Southern Clay Manufacturing Company, in Robbins, Tennessee.
Ninety-six-year-old Stanley Burnside lives near Church Avenue, which is the only street in Pasco County designated a national historic site.
To him, the brick streets bring back memories of a different era when people were riding in Model-T Fords and Warren G. Harding was the 29th President of the United States.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Burnside agreed to walk the two blocks from his townhome in downtown Dade City to the corner of 12th Street and Meridian Avenue.
Standing at the same spot as he did in 1927, he is photographed with Rodney B. Cox Elementary School over his right shoulder.
“I was 7 years old, but I still remember them laying down the brick by hand,” Burnside recalled.
From Meridian Avenue heading north, the brickwork was laid without any mortar and was headed straight to what was then the Dade City Grammar School, at the far end of 12th Street.
Burnside often walks past this same corner on his daily walks, which sometimes gives him time to think about the brick streets in Dade City.
“You might say they last forever,” says Burnside, who celebrated his 96th birthday on May 23.
Over the years, maintaining the brick streets has posed its share of challenges.
City Manager Ben Bolan described some of them in a 1988 interview with The Tampa Tribune.
Because of the difficulty in finding skilled labor to do the maintenance work, Bolan recommended that Fifth Street and 10th Street be repaved, due to sections of those brick streets being uneven, creating a potential hazard, if drivers didn’t slow down.
But, the consensus of the City Commission was the same then as it was for Church Avenue.
“(The Commission’s) general philosophy is that there will never be another brick street paved over in Dade City,” Bolan was quoted by the newspaper 28 years ago.
And, to this day, there hasn’t been.
Doug Sanders has a penchant for unearthing interesting stories about local history. His sleuthing skills have been developed through his experiences in newspaper and government work. If you have an idea for a future history column, contact Doug at