FARMINGTON – Roger Condit remembers walking along the red brick sidewalks bathed in the shade of the towering maples on Court Street.
Living on this quiet street for 30 years in one of a line up of New England standard-style homes, he and his wife Karyl raised their children here. During those decades, he watched as the sidewalk’s brickwork gave way to the growing and emerging tree roots and winters of repeated frost and thaw patterns that shifted the walkway into a hazardous obstacle course.
Once, all of Farmington’s stone sidewalks were made by the skilled hands of the area’s brick layers.
Over the years, the town seeking to make the sidewalks safer, responded, as is customary, by laying a smoothing coat of asphalt over the bricks. Sections along Court Street’s sidewalks closer to Main Street were covered, as was the rest of the town’s sidewalks. But, on Court Street, the asphalt work stopped short at the intersection of Fountain Street, and on to the North Street corner.
“I have long wanted to help reset the bricks to help preserve the character of Farmington,” Condit said smiling as he stood watching the resurrection of the 100-year-old bricks that will be used to form a smooth sidewalk once again.
Students at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon, their instructor Stephen Mitchell, who founded the school four years ago, along with Condit worked this morning to pull up and stack the bricks along the low granite wall that borders the walkway.
“The bricks are in great condition,” Mitchell said holding up the century-old handmade stone. Showing the lighter red of the exposed side, he turned it over to reveal a deeper, rich brick red and a surface as smooth as the day it was first laid.
“It’s beautiful,” the master mason added. “In great shape.” The bricks along the 230-foot section will be replaced by the students at Mitchell’s school who will be aided by the man who had long wanted to reset the bricks.
The town is also stepping in to help pave the way.
On Monday, Farmington’s Public Works director, Denis Castonguay, and his crew will be on site to pull up and reset the granite liners along the sidewalk. The town is also providing sand for the walkway’s bed.
Mitchell’s crew will be helping on Monday, too, and then will return for full days on the following Fridays until the job is completed along one section of the sidewalk. A second section extending all the way to the North Street corner will be completed next spring.
“I was really excited when Roger called wanting a brick sidewalk,” Mitchell said. As is customary at the masonry school, the eight students will be volunteering their time to build the sidewalk, but have also signed on to work with the Town of Strong to build its welcome sign as part of a Department of Transportation Gateway Grant. The crew is also going to build a stone barbeque grill for the town of Phillips and a stone-and-water backdrop for the concert stage at Skye Theatre in South Carthage.
“This is a trade that makes you feel great when the work is finished,” Mitchell said.
Roger Condit, who will be working with the students to lay the sidewalk’s brickwork, couldn’t agree more.
“I want to lay these bricks with Steve’s students who are all donating their time,” Condit said. “It’s wonderful.”