When I was very young, there was a brick-paved street a couple of blocks from my house.  It was really just a brick intersection – a tiny slice of leftover history that somehow got missed by the modernization of Birmingham.  I loved when we drove over it and I had the opportunity to pretend that I was a 19th century Southern Belle in a horse drawn carriage, and my Mom or Dad was my personal driver.

Not too long into my childhood, modern progress won out, and they dug up the bricks and asphalted my favorite intersection.  The bricks were going to be thrown out, so my Dad went down to collect some of them.

He used those bricks to make steps and a walkway up to our house.  I remember asking him why he wanted to use the old, chipped and worn bricks instead of new, “pretty” bricks.  He showed me the stamping on the bricks:


The bricks were made right there in our town by a factory that was closed half a century before he was born.  He explained to me that these bricks were a part of our history – of our city’s story, and that by saving them, he had salvaged a bit of that history for our family.

Although I didn’t care too much about my city’s history at that point, I did look down and see those stamps of Birmingham’s past on a daily basis, and always remembered my cherished brick road because of their presence.

Now that I’m older and passionately in love with my city, I completely understand my Dad’s efforts to preserve our past.  I am fascinated with books showing pictures of how Birmingham used to be, and I confess I might still spend a bit of time still imagining that I was one of those ladies with the long, full dresses and dainty parasols being driven down the locally-made brick roads in a fancy new horseless carriage.

Yesterday, we spent a day of our vacation in Historical old St. Augustine, Florida – the oldest city in America.  The layers upon layers of different cultures and generations creates a beautiful canvas.  Centuries of buildings and churches line brick-paved alleyways, and remnants of pirate attacks, forts, and colonization are scattered throughout downtown.  Men dressed up as Pirates amble down the roads, scaring children and having witty remarks always at the ready.  It’s easy to imagine oneself in the past in St. Augustine.

Ali and I stopped to admire a 19th century water wheel at a former grist mill.


…Or at least I  was admiring it, and she was begging for money to throw in the water to make a wish.

She threw her money in, wished for ice cream, stared intently at her coin, then sighed.  She walked away and said, “I threw my money in and made my wish, but it didn’t turn into ice cream.  Why didn’t it work??”

She looked down to the ground.  I looked down with her.

I Immediately recognized those bricks.

Here was a part of my city’s proud history, tucked hundreds of miles away in the nation’s oldest city.

I was proud, I was thrilled, and I was immediately transported back to sitting on my steps as a little girl, to riding down that brick road, and to imagining all sorts of historical Birmingham stories.


Of course, I pointed the bricks out to Ali, and just like my reaction as a little girl, she was completely unimpressed.

Hopefully though, in time, I will be able to instill in her a love for history, for our city, and for imaginary visits to times past.


35 thoughts on “Discovering The Magic City in America’s Oldest City

  1. That is so cool! What a great story. I love St. Augustine, and it’s history, but then I love all history which is why I am a history major. It is nice to see a part of your great citie’s history preserved in St. Augustine’s history. I guess it is a small world.

      1. The old brick highway runs in various places in Central Florida and it has both the GRAVES BHAMALA bricks and the ones in your pictures with the diamonds, which in researching next.

  2. I have been reading your blog for a while (you remind me of Erma Bombeck in that you make everyday life funny and witty). I just had to comment on St. Augustine. We go every year because my mother-in-law lives in Crescent Beach. I love ‘old town’ and I am so glad you are blogging about it. P.S. We will actually be arriving there Friday.

    1. Thank you!
      Erma Bombeck – that’s quite a (undeserved) compliment!!!
      We just came back today – and had a wonderful trip! The weather was fabulous. I hope y’all have a great trip too!!

  3. That’s really cool about the bricks. I didn’t know they ever made bricks there, I thought it was mostly steel industry stuff. And if Ali ever figures out how to make wishing well pennies turn into ice cream, I will need to know how she did it! =)

    1. Yes, poor thing – she was quite disappointed! But she did get ice cream at lunch today – I need to tell her tomorrow that it was her wish coming true!

  4. Your dad will love this post! Btw, I gott to see the horseless carriage where u learned to drive!!

    1. Yes! I learned to drive in that Model T when I was about 6. But it confused me later when I “really” learned to drive, because there was no reverse pedal!

  5. Very cool! I have a love for the old Victorian houses, and could not believe how many (and remarkably cheap) ones there were in upstate New York with all the beautiful woodwork and stained glass and vintage wallpaper. And only on occasion do I imagine myself in a corseted gown sweeping down that grand staircase in the huge grand Victorian house we almost almost bought… ;-)

    1. Oooh…but think of all of the maintenance one of those old houses would have! I’m too jaded to actually OWN one, but I sure can appreciate them from afar!

  6. Hello! Not only the oldness speaks to me, Savannah chick here, but also the OCD person in me loves the patterns. Even my son, the other math geek in the family enjoys the patterns. Old and pattern-y.. Squee!!

    1. I actually think there might be some of the same bricks in Savannah! When I researched the company, people were saying they’d seen them in Savannah as well. Let me know if you spot any!

      btw – we LOVE Savannah! We spent our 5th anniversary there – it was so awesome!! Hopefully we’ll get to come back sooner rather than later.

  7. I am glad to know that your Dad preserved a part of history,now maybe Nana can understand why I spent days cleaning old “Bessemer Gray” brick from a cafe(?) that was being torn down in Bessemer in stead of buying new brick, to build the facade for the fireplace I added in our den when Chris was 1 year old.

  8. Our family was just visiting St. Augustine this week too. How funny, we probably crossed paths and didn’t even know it. (Did you hit up Kilwins in Old town?) That was the best! My girls liked the walls made out of seashells and my son liked the bricks because they looked like legos. :) Glad your family enjoyed your trip, we certainly did too!!

    1. Oh it would have been fun to have run into you! That would have been awesome! :)
      We had a great trip! I don’t know about Kilwins – hate we missed it though – sounds neat!

  9. Beautiful post. I love connecting pieces of different lives together. I start asking…when were the bricks brought in? Who did the labor? Where else can you find them? There’s an article there at least! The life of a historian I guess.

  10. Thank you so mic for postin this! We were just driving in an area near our home in Palm Coast, FL down a road that says “Travel at your own risk”. We saw these beautiful brick road partially covered by sand that read “GRAVES BHAMALA”. We had no idea what that meant file we googled it and found your blog about it. Let me know if you head down this way again & I’ll tell you how to get to the road.

  11. There are many bricks just like these at the Beaches Town Center, a commercial district between Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, just up the road from St. Augustine. I noticed the bricks last weekend and was curious about them, and that’s how I found your website. Thank you for the information!

  12. I have a found memory of these bricks. My granddad worked for the city that I grew up in. He laid a lot of the bricks building the streets in the town. Granny and Papa’s house was on one of those red brick roads. When it came time for the old red brick roads to be paved, my Mom went and collected a bunch of them. Now my Grand parents have long since passed on, and my mom’s old house had to be emptied out , she cannot live alone any longer. My wife and did not leave those brick behind. They are stacked up in my back yard and we are trying to find a place for them. I think a well worn walkway will get an old time make over.

    Thankyou for your post, i am 47 years old and these bricks and your post made me remember my childhood.
    May God bless your home as He has mine.

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