Cooper: Dirt roads and paving challenges

Special This picture is from the end of Strickland Street when it was blocked off for paving in 1953.

I guess it depends on how old you are, but in the whole scheme of things 68 years ago doesn't seem like that long, does it? I can see why someone younger, a millennial, for example, would consider 1949 a long time ago while someone closer to my age or older would think it was just a blink in the eyes of Father Time. No matter your concept of how long ago something happened, it is still surprising to most to learn that in 1949 the town of Douglasville still had dirt roads within its city limits. Most main roads across the county were dirt as well. Discussions and funding solutions to pave Highways 5 and 166 didn't seriously start until 1948.

At the regular Monday evening city council meeting on March 7, 1949, a delegation of residents living on Strickland Street appeared and asked the council to take steps to pave their street. The residents reported 100 percent of the property owners on the street were in favor of paving even with the realization they would be responsible for paying some of the costs. Council members were in favor of the request, but reminded residents a deal between the city and Southern Railway would need to be struck before any paving would begin. Mayor M.T. McDearmid instructed the members of the street committee consisting of Councilmen R.D. Pounds (Chairman and Mayor Pro Tem), Lamar Smith and Robert Griggs to contact the appropriate railroad officials and work out an agreement.

Six months later the street committee was still trying to work out an agreement with the railroad. At the same time the city council asked for bids for grading and surfacing Chicago Avenue from the railroad to property owned by T.L. Ergle, Adair Street between Church and Spring Street, and Spring Street between Price Avenue and Fairburn Road.

The city council reported a snag with the Chicago Avenue job due to the fact the city and county governments could not reach an agreement. At that time the county owned and still owns some land on Chicago Avenue where the county's poor farm was once located as well as the vehicle maintenance facility today. The county commissioners had agreed to grade the street provided the other property owners would bear the county's pro rata share of the paving cost.

Many hoped other projects could be included as well, but at that time unless home owners agreed regarding street work, it could be held up. Many property owners on Duncan Street had signed a petition to pave, but not everyone living on the street wanted pavement. They were happy with the dirt road and feared pavement would mean vehicles driving at faster speeds.

Sealed bids were opened on the asphalt job on Friday, July 8, 1948. The pavement contract was awarded to Jack Clark Company of Marietta for $25,459 and included the Spring and Adair Street, and Chicago Avenue jobs.

It was only after the contract was signed that the needed approval from the remainder of the home owners on Duncan Street was obtained, so it was added to the project list. Paving would be done on Duncan Street from Broad Street down to the property belonging to J.W. Taft. It was hoped the paving project would be complete by August 15, 1949, but the weather could get in the way.

At the end of July 1949 officials from Southern Railway were in town to look over the Strickland Street paving project. The railroad agreed to pick up some of the costs for paving if the city could obtain the cooperation of the residents to close six of the twelve grade crossings within the city limits.

The Campbellton Street crossing as well as the Price Avenue crossing would remain open because they already had lights. Ward's Crossing would remain open on the west end of town, the crossing at the Lois Mill ball field would remain open, as well as two other crossings because they were level and drivers had good visibility.

This wasn't the end of the story, however, because Strickland Street would not be paved until 1953 under the supervision of Mayor W.S. O'Neal as negotiations between the city and railroad were drug out endlessly. Finally, there was ink on the agreement. The six crossings were closed, the city quit claimed all its interest in the land underlying the closed crossings to Southern Railway, and the city began to collect paving fees from property owners along Strickland Street to be given to Bartow Paving Company, the business awarded the paving contract. While the city picked up most of the tab, Strickland Street residents had to pay between $1.90 and $2.25 per lineal foot for streets 18 to 22 feet wide.

After a four year wait the folks on Strickland Street really didn't mind.

Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.

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