Dating from 1890 to 1930, the bricks dedicated to the Every Soldier’s Square project were manufactured by the Purington Brick Co. of East Galesburg, IL. Purlington was once the nation’s largest producer of pavers. Their bricks, renown for their durability, were used all over the country and, in fact, many of their bricks still line the Panama Canal.
The bricks were used along the Appleton trolley line which was the first commercially successful electric trolley line in the country. When the trolley system could no longer compete against buses, many of the bricks were simply paved over. The bricks were “rediscovered” in the 1960s when they were uncovered during street reconstruction. That’s when Hearthstone’s connection to the bricks began.
When College Avenue in downtown Appleton was resurfaced, many of the bricks were excavated, hauled away, and simply dumped in the Fox River. However, thousands found their way to the bluff behind Hearthstone. Harold and Ruth Mares, who owned and lived in Hearthstone, had their four sons carry approximately 25,000 of the bricks up the bluff. The sons then cleaned and installed the bricks as the driveway around the house.
Fast forward to 2018, Hearthstone needed to remove many of the bricks to accommodate installation of a new parking lot. Instead of having a salvage company bulldoze them up and cart them off to Madison or Milwaukee, where they would lose all of their historical significance and become just another commodity, the museum’s volunteers removed by hand, one brick at a time, over 13,000 of the nine pound bricks. In all, Hearthstone volunteers palletized 53 tons of bricks which were placed in storage for this project.
There can be no better use for these bricks than returning them to a public space literally within feet from where they once laid, where their history can be recognized and appreciated, and where they will serve an even greater purpose as part of the Every Soldier’s Square project.