Paving Broadway, 1921

In our first installment of Back Story, we zoom in on the paving of Orangeville’s main street, Broadway, more than 100 years ago.

March 20, 2023 | | Back Story

“As a man is judged by his linen, a city is judged by its streets.” — Charles Mulford Robinson, 1899

Spring’s promise of new beginnings inevitably brings with it a not-so-welcome certainty: road construction.

Today, drivers caught in construction may fume, but for many residents of 1921 Orangeville, the roadwork was welcome. Broadway, the town’s expansive main drag, was being paved for the first time, ending the threat of being mired in mud after every rainfall and winter thaw. Perhaps as important to town pride, the paving project catapulted Orangeville into the ranks of urban centres entitled to boast of what pioneering town planner Charles Mulford Robinson called an essential of “municipal dignity.”

Photo by A.G. Cooper, courtesy the Museum of Dufferin

The photo by Orangeville photographer A.G. Cooper shows labourers hard at work on the south side of Broadway near the Mill Street intersection. The workers on the right are preparing to dump the necessary materials into the mixing machine, which resembles something out of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. The machine then spewed the mixture into the prepared form, where other workers raked and flattened it. The final step involved smoothing and levelling the surface with a wooden screed. Once that work was done, a new form would be built and the machine would be shifted along to the next slab.

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