The “Metropolitan” Legacy: Rustic Street Pavers Transform a Driveway

The “Metropolitan” Legacy: Rustic Street Pavers Transform a Driveway

With an old-school charm, this Metropolitan block brick driveway invites guests to feel at home.

You know a brick is special when you can literally read its history on its face. Visitors to Tom R.’s home are greeted by a dozen rustic antique bricks laid out near the entrance with the identifying words: “Metropolitan Block, Canton, O.”

“Everyone who comes to our home admires them,” says Tom.

Gavin Historical Bricks supplied the 2,000 square feet of Metropolitan pavers for the driveway to his and his wife’s Cape Cod overlooking Long Island Sound. While the arrangement at the entrance is charming, the rest of the bricks – laid in the traditional manner with the words on the underside – are just as effective in creating an aura of history. As Tom puts it, “The whole parking area looks like it’s been there for a hundred years!”

Underside of a typical Metropolitan paver. The Ohio company once led the world in brickmaking.

The driveway blocks were salvaged from Midwest streets, but the Metropolitan Brick Company was hardly a regional company. Indeed, their rustic antique bricks can still be found all across North America.

Early in the 20th century, Canton held the title of “brick-paving capital of the world” thanks to its proximity to abundant clay and shale deposits. Early in the 20th century, as many as 15 manufacturers were in operation in the city.

Formed in 1902 from the merger of two companies, Metropolitan soon made itself into the industry leader and controlled most of the brickmaking in northeastern Ohio. In the 1920s, their annual output eclipsed 90 million – the equivalent of more than 10,000 bricks per hour! Newspapers reported on Metropolitan’s large-scale shipments to places as far away as New Brunswick, Canada and the Yucatan in Mexico.

Although asphalt is now the dominant street paving material in the US, brick pavers are still visible in many older cities, especially in historic districts and narrower pedestrian alleys. In other cases, original Metropolitan blocks were simply kept in place under the new layers of asphalt, and remain hidden as time capsules from an earlier era.

Prior to installation, the entire driveway consisted of recycled concrete aggregate.

As caring owners like Tom demonstrate, these pavers reclaimed from public streets can work wonders for private reuse.

He grew up immersed in history, spending his Wisconsin childhood in a 150-year-old fieldstone house. So when considering how to upgrade the driveway on his Long Island property, made from recycled concrete aggregate (RCA), he knew something with old-school brick, not asphalt or crushed gravel, was the way to go.

Initially, though, figuring out how to go about it was a challenge. He almost settled on manufactured pavers, but after finding Gavin online he confirmed the rustic type of paver he had in mind. The team at Gavin were very responsive and resolved all of his questions on pricing and shipping. The whole installation took five days, and “the end result is fabulous,” says Tom.

The multi-colored pavers complement not only the front steps but the surrounding garden spaces as well

Part of the driveway remains RCA, but Tom finds that it blends well with the old brick. Finding an installer with patience and care was crucial to the project’s success, as was a smart and responsible supplier: “We couldn’t be happier. The people at Gavin are a great source of antique brick pavers, but were proven to be honest, knowledgeable and a pleasure to deal with.”