Salisbury’s yellow brick street dates to 1904

brick road

A visiting merchant arrived in Downtown Salisbury and asked for directions to the train station. A youngster chimed in with, “All ya have to do, mister, is follow the yellow brick street.”

Long before the famed yellow path of movie lore, Salisbury had a yellow brick road.  Brick streets were not unusual in towns; after all, Cambridge, Maryland still has one of its brick streets.  But the color, that yellow brick, was a Salisbury distinction.

I am the proud owner of one of those yellow bricks, gifted by Salisbury historian George Chevallier. I have had no finer present.  In 2011, George spotted an exposed patch of the yellow bricks in a pothole on East Church Street and asked the city for a few salvaged bricks when the road was repaired. George donated two of those bricks to the Nabb Research Center at Salisbury University.

The brick road, laid in the spring of 1904, extended from the Main Street Bridge, along Main Street to Division Street. At that time, Main Street did not continue past Division Street. The yellow path followed Division Street past the courthouse to Church Street, then east along Church Street to the NYP&N railroad station.  That station was replaced in 1914 by the nearby Union Station.

According to Chevallier, the vitrified yellow bricks were laid down at a cost of $27,000 of $8 per running foot, half of which was paid by Salisbury, the other half by the owners of adjoining properties.

Traveling the path of Salisbury’s former yellow brick streets is to view a downtown steeped in history.

In 1904, a visitor of Main Street might have noticed Mrs. G. W. Taylor’s millinery shop and its new arrival of summer millinery including the Excelsior shirt waist hat and an assortment of children’s hats trimmed in ribbons, laces and silks.

Or one might notice the Smith Studio in the Williams Building providing all sorts of photographic supplies and services.

And at Twilley & Hearn’s, a man could get a hot or cold bath at an establishment near the opera house, with 5 cent shoe shines and the “best shave in town.”

James F. Bonneville may have begged to differ on that assertion, advertising his newly furnished parlor next to the post office, “equipped for fine tonsorial art” where you could get a shave or shampoo while your shoes are shined.

Or you could get a taste of Bell’s Chocolates at J. B. Porter’s shop next to the Peninsula Hotel, where you could find an assortment of dipped chocolates, “including all the cream centers and mint varieties.”

At E. J. C. Parsons & Co. you could purchase one of their “crown mocha and java” coffees. And you could sip a cool drink at the newly opened soda fountain at R. K. Truitt & Sons.

That brick road was laid out at a time when the town was completing its rebuilding from the 1886 fire. The town learned its lesson from two devastating fires by requiring new structures built of brick. That yellow brick road was the crowning achievement for that rebuilding, linking travelers from ships to trains along a path through the center of town.

Later, the streets were covered with macadam, at last covering the mysterious yellow bricks.

But if new brick is ever considered as part of downtown improvements, city planners might think about that yellow brick.

 Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is in the process of writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com

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