Kankakee Pothole Offers Glimpse Into City’s Brick-Lined Past – CBS Chicago

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CHICAGO (CBS) — ‘Tis the season for potholes, and while public works crews are busy across the state filling them in, one crack in Kankakee will be untouched for now.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory shows us the mystery beneath the surface of a recently unearthed pothole that peeks at the past.

Thousands probably drive by it every day, not knowing they’re cruising past memory lane.

Kankakee native Bob Schneider is the exception. He recalled his father telling him about the time of trolleys and his mother walking him across the old brick-lined streets.

“I remember we were crossing one of the brick streets, and it was wintertime. She said ‘Here Bobby, take my hand, the brick is slippery,” he said.

Brick used to blanket Kankakee, a photograph from 1896 shows when road crews installed them over dirt.

“We have a lot of pictures at the Kankakee County Museum that show all the roads – or many of the roads – in Kankakee were brick,” said museum archivist Jorie Walters. “It’s really cool to see it in person.”

Walters wasn’t born before asphalt covered the path of trolleys in the 1950s, but she’s studied the history intently.

She said the brick roads were probably covered in asphalt because the pavement would last longer.

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A recent picture shared on Facebook showed one pothole on Court Street in Kankakee, where the old brick road is now visible. The picture included a controversial question.

“How neat would this be if we still had this in our area?” said Ashley Peterson, who posted the photo, and wondered if restoring the brick might boost tourism in Kankakee.

“Just bring it back. Bring Kankakee back. Bring why people from Chicago would come here on the weekend, why they wanted to enjoy the river, why they wanted to enjoy the community,” she said.

Schneider said bringing back the brick roads might be nice from a historical perspective, but he and others who lived in Kankakee before the brick roads were paved responded to Peterson’s picture with some practical points.

“I wouldn’t be driving my car on it, and I sure wouldn’t want to run a snowplow down it,” he said.

The head of public works in Kankakee said the pothole must be filled for liability reasons. He loved the idea of restoring a brick road, but said Court Street is under the state’s jurisdiction, so it’s not his call.

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