Wood Block Alley

1555 N State Pkwy Chicago

Amy Bizzarri
Written By Amy Bizzarri

In the early 19th century, as American cities dreamed of replacing their muddy streets, Boston developer Samuel Nicolson came up with the idea of paving streets with wooden blocks. His idea traveled to Chicago, where plentiful wood from Wisconsin made wooden blocks a cheaper and less noisy street paving alternative -— horse hooves pounded slightly softer on Nicolson paved streets. By 1871, Chicago had 37 miles of woodblock paved streets. You can still find three wood-paved alleys hidden throughout the city, true souvenirs of Old Chicago. The finest example (and easiest to find) is here, in the narrow alleyway, closed to traffic, that runs between State and Astor streets, behind the grand, Gold Coast mansion of the Archbishop of Chicago.

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