Meet Rhonda and The Star Brick Paver

Meet Rhonda and The Star Brick Paver
August 14, 2012 Visit Madison

Rhonda has devoted much of her career to teaching in the vocational trades, both at the high school and college levels. She has taught the traditional historic preservation trades for over 15 years, and has developed historic trades programs in Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland and Indiana. Rhonda is active in many local, state, and national preservation organizations.  She has written numerous articles for trade related magazines and spoken at many workshops/seminars. She is currently employed as the Director of Programs for Historic Madison, Inc.

Rhonda will be posting a couple of times every month about some of her favorite preservation and historic topics and will keep you in-the-know about local happenings within the historic community.

Have you ever wondered where the Star Brick Paver originated?  I have found them all over Madison in a variety of places… from sidewalks to porch walls. The local examples you see may have been manufactured by the Nelsonville Brick Company out of Nelsonville, OH from 1870 to 1937. During the height of their operation, they produced 25,000 pavers per year.

The brick industry along the Ohio River and in the Ohio Territory is very interesting. The industry really follows closely with the birth of the iron industry. Shortly after the Civil War, Ohio was producing more iron and dotting many areas with new blast furnaces beginning during the early 1800’s. By the 1880’s much of the forestry in the area was wiped out due to the use of wood timber burned to produce a type of charcoal ash that was used in the iron blast furnaces. Two things resulted in this, 1) Brick was needed to build the blast furnace as stone was more difficult to move and much too expensive. 2) In the search for iron ore, the natural resources of clay were discovered. Clay was inexpensive and could be created into a buildable product that was fire-proof and decorative.

A number of large brick manufacturing companies were built all over the mid-west during the mid to late 1800’s.  Some are still in existence today.  The star brick paver is one design of many that can be seen in areas predominately in the mid-west and along the east coast. The star design is exclusive to the Nelsonville Brick Company and can be found in downtown Madison locations such as: the sidewalk in front of #1 Fire station on East Main Street, around the walkway at the Broadway Fountain and on the front porch of a home on Walnut Street. Their special brick paver called the “king of all bricks” was larger than the standard dimensions for a paver, heavier in weight, more rugged and glazed.

Let us know where you have found star brick pavers in Madison!

Rhonda L. Deeg


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