PANORAMA - Paving the way

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A grading crew is shown in this 1912 photo of a street paving project on East Alder Street.

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Apparently the 800 block of West Poplar Street wasn't paved until after 1920, the estimated date on this photograph of the Grand Hotel taxi.

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An undated photo of Walla Walla's Main Street, looking west from First Avenue, taken after late 1906 when the electric street car system began and before the new Baker Boyer Bank building was under construction in 1910. Paving on this portion of Main Street began in 1904.

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Rose Street was pretty much a muddy mess near Third Avenue when City Hall, at left, was under construction in 1908. The adjacent Fire Station No. 1 served the community into the 1970s.

Ever since the wheel was invented thousands of years ago, people have looked for smooth, even surfaces on which to roll.

And eventually they decided to construct paths, roads and highways to accommodate their wagons, buggies and automobiles.

Here in the Walla Walla Valley as elsewhere, the rugged byways evolved into modern-day asphalt surfaces. But it's been at great expense in a seemingly endless struggle to maintain and repair the thoroughfares.

City of Walla Walla officials estimate that about 115 of our 140 miles of roads and underground pipes are currently failing, so they have embarked on a 93-year replacement plan. Up to two miles of the infrastructure will be completely rebuilt each year, primarily funded by increased sewer and water rates. This year's projects will include work on Bonsella, Estrella, Figueroa and Whitman streets.

The Union-Bulletin will be publishing a series of stories in coming weeks about the replacement work, including a historical piece on initial planning and paving of our streets beginning more than 100 years ago.

Meanwhile here's an initial look back, thanks to pictures from contemporary issues of Up-To-The-Times Magazine and other sources compiled in the Bygone Walla Walla CD collection by Joe Drazan, retired Whitman College librarian.

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