Courtesy BTHL

This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, trade publications, and more. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization. Read more about the archive here.

While landscaping often provides the finishing touch that makes the outdoors of a residential or community space feel welcoming, hardscaping such as roadways, paving, and fencing is equally as critical, providing necessary infrastructure for clear boundaries, easy wayfinding, and clean lines.

Since the early 20th century, paving materials including concrete, asphalt, and brick have been utilized for streets, public parks, and even recreational or sports venues. Fencing, though initially installed as practical barriers for agricultural sites, eventually became ornamental and stylized adornments for residential and institutional uses.

The BTHL chronicles the evolution of hardscaping options throughout the 1900s.

The Purington Paving Brick Co., Galesburg, Ill., 1911
Brick street paving was popular in the early 20th century. As one of the nation’s largest brick paving manufacturers, Purington Paving Co. claims to provide a “wearing surface [for which] there will be no future cost for maintenance and repairs.”

Catalog “A”: Brown Fence & Wire Co., Cleveland, 1912
This catalog includes fences for farms and lawns, available for hogs, sheep, poultry, and rabbits. These wire fences were assembled using triple galvanized wire for maximum durability.

A Moving Picture of Vibrolithic Concrete Construction as Built on Sheridan Road, Chicago, by the Lincoln Park Commission, American Vibrolithic Corp., Chicago, 1923
This illustrated catalog chronicles the construction of concrete pavement using a special vibration system to assure a better mix and density to the concrete.

Concrete Roads, Universal Portland Cement Co., Chicago, 1914
As America’s first transcontinental road, the Lincoln Highway became a testing ground for new material technologies, including Universal Portland Cement Co.’s concrete. Many states installed test sections of the road to promote “hard roads.” Prior to the Lincoln Highway, most rural roads were meant for farm vehicles and were not suitable for automobiles in bad weather.

Hastings Asphalt Blocks, Hastings Pavement Co., New York, 1939
By the mid-1900s, “unit pavers” of asphalt became a cheaper alternative to brick pavers and were marketed for both road construction and industrial flooring.

Kentucky Rock Asphalt for Modern Tennis Courts, Playgrounds, Sidewalks and Recreation Areas, Kentucky Rock Asphalt Institute, Louisville, Ky., 1939.
Kentucky Rock Asphalt was advertised as “sandstone impregnated with native bitumen by nature’s own forces.” The fine sand grain of this material gave it a smooth, non-skid surface ideal for tennis courts and other recreational uses.

Fences by Stewart, Stewart Iron Works Co., Cincinnati, 1944
Founded in 1886, Stewart Iron Works sold ornamental metal fences—as featured in this catalog—as well as more utilitarian chain link fences. The company remains active today.

USS Cyclone Fence, Cyclone Fence Dept., United State Steel, Waukegan, Ill., c. 1938
The Cyclone Fence is one of the best known brand names of chain link fence. This catalog has many examples of institutional and industrial uses of chain link fences, often promoted for their safety.

Modern Wood Fences, Weyerhaeuser Sales Co., St. Paul, Minn., 1960
These painted or stained wood fences—advertised here for the modern ranch house—predate the treated lumber commonly used today. This catalog also provide instructions for assembly.