Wood Blocks for Exterior Application: “A special substance”

The basic theory of Wood Block Flooring is centuries old. The ancients used the end grain of logs as “chopping blocks” because the tough end grain surface could withstand the pounding of hammers without splintering. End Grain blocks were once used out of doors as street pavers. For generations, wood blocks served the needs of city streets in Europe and in the United States, many of which still exist today. Edgar Allan Poe wrote an article in 1845 about street paving in Baltimore: “It is generally admitted, we believe, that as long as they last, the wood block pavements have an advantage over all others. They occasion little noise, they save a great deal of horsepower, pleasant to the hoof, and thus save the health of the horse-as well as some twenty or thirty per cent in the wear and tear of vehicles-and as much more, in time, to all travelers through the increased rapidity of passage to and fro”.

There remain two wood block paved streets in Chicago. Constructed in 1909, the original and famous “Wood Paver Alley” between State and Astor Streets is one. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, after 103 years of service the city engineers determined it was time to replace the original blocks. They chose Kaswell Black Locust Blocks for this historic and special landmark. The new Wood Paver Alley is now a beautiful architectural tribute to the integral role wooden paver blocks played in the development of the street system in Chicago and around the country, facilitating the transportation of people and goods essential to the entire nation’s growth and connectivity.

David O. Whitten, historian at Auburn University wrote an article titled “Wood Blocks as Paving Material in the United States and Abroad 1840-1940”. In his article he states that wood blocks for street paving were not intended as an all-purpose paving material, but as a special substance for selected streets. City engineers considered wood blocks appealing for streets near hospitals, schools, churches, and other public buildings where street noise was especially bothersome, and in congested streets with heavy traffic. We believe end grain wood blocks remain a special substance, combining comfort and durability with natural beauty. In addition to our black locust we also offer redwood, mesquite, and pine for exterior patios, walkways, courtyards, and streets applications. “End grain imaged brick” pavers are available as well.

21st Century

Exterior paver wood blocks - Kaswell FlooringExterior Pavers: Top: Imaged Brick, Bottom: Black Locust, Left: Redwood, Right: Pine, Center: Mesquite
Wood paver alley in chicago with new and old blocksThe new Wood Paver Alley with Kaswell Black Locust Blocks. The small area at the far end contains selected blocks from the original Wood Paver Alley.
Detail close up of wood paver blocks used in alley way.Close-up of the Black Locust blocks at Wood Paver Alley

20th Century

Pot of creosote for finishing wood blocksPortable coal tar pitch kettle. c.1975
Kaswell men posing on tanker train car.Our founder, Harold J. Kaswell (right), with his two partners Edward and George Hutchinson. c.1955
Worker rolling sealer over industrial pine block - KaswellRoller application of black sealer over industrial pine blocks.

Late 19th Century – Early 20th Century

woodblock_street_histSqueegee machines applying hot coal tar pitch to a wood block street. c.1900
paving_fs_histInstalling wood pavers on a main street between train tracks. c.1910
Model T cars parked on a wood block paved streetModel T Fords on hexagon wood pavers, Detroit, MI. c.1910

Harold J. KaswellHarold J. Kaswell, founder.
demonbreum-st-nashville-kyDemonbreun Street in Nashville, TN. c.1900
chrysler-factory_floor_hist_kaswellChrysler Corporation. c.1970