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Road Building

Date Published: 
August, 1902
Original Author: 
Charles W. Ross
Newton, MA
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 16th Annual Convention

When I agreed to write a short paper on road construction it seemed to me to be a simple matter, but I assure you if I had agreed to build a mile of sample road I should feel that I could accomplish my task in a much more satisfactory manner.

The fact is, the superintendent of a cemetery is a man selected usually because of his qualifications as a proper man for the position, and in almost every case I have found that he possesses more or less natural ability in landscape architecture, and his common sense tells him how a piece of ground should be laid out to give the best results and make it most attractive, as well as profitable to the corporation which he represents.

An avenue in a cemetery should be considered as a public highway, in many respects, although a topographical survey would show that it would be inexpedient to run the lines and grades through a cemetery and make the cuts and fills to match, as we would in a public highway. The piece of ground selected for a cemetery usually possesses natural beauty, and the avenues should be laid out giving proper curves and in such a way as to preserve the natural scenery. For instance, a large tree or boulder coming almost exactly in the line of what might be termed by an engineer, a straight line for an avenue would probably be cut down by him and the boulder removed, but the ordinary cemetery superintendent would say that a graceful curve in the avenue would make it much more attractive and certainly add to what nature had already provided.

Keeping these facts in mind, the surface of an avenue should be built even more carefully than the ordinary road, for the avenue is subjected to all sorts of changes and conditions. For instance the heavy monuments are hauled over it and the foundation should be sufficient to bear up such loads without becoming rutted. The finished grade should be of such a nature that it will be dry at all times of the year because people visiting the cemetery are obliged to walk upon the avenues and the surface should be of the finest and best crushed stone, screened out in proper sizes and properly wet and rolled to cement it together to make the surface smooth and hard and show no inclination to become muddy under any conditions.

The drainage of an avenue is not of so much importance as the drainage of a public street. There can be located along the borders at the side of the avenue properly constructed dry wells built of loose stone to soak up the surface water if there is no better system of drainage and these in almost every case would prove satisfactory.

If I were to describe the construction of a public highway I should say that the drainage question was the first one to be considered, but a cemetery avenue, with from four to six inches of broken stone on a good gravel foundation for a wearing surface, will never be wet or unsatisfactory.

I remember well that it was once stated by one of the originators of this association that the parks and cemeteries should take the lead in all landscape work and this statement, while being made some twenty years ago, has always impressed itself upon my mind as being of great importance. A person visiting a cemetery ordinarily expects to find the most beautiful conditions surrounding it and there is nothing more unattractive than a soft sandy avenue, or one that is muddy when the frost is coming out of the ground. Such conditions many times deprive people of the pleasure of driving to a cemetery and they cannot feel that it is a place of beauty or that it is well kept. The grass and trees, of course, change with the seasons, but an avenue should never change under any conditions. The best work is the cheapest in the end. If the cemetery is laid out with the idea that it is to be used year after year it is certainly much cheaper to build the avenues properly in the first place than it is to undertake to half do the work and then after a few years tear them up and rebuild them. Such a state of affairs is unsatisfactory not only to the superintendent, but to the lot owners as well.

If I were to construct an avenue in a cemetery, I should first put four inches of broken stone on a good gravel foundation. This foundation should be thoroughly rolled and shaped to conform to the topography of the ground and finished and rolled as correctly and carefully as if it were the surface of the avenue. If four inches of broken stone (the size which would pass through a two inch hole in a screen) is placed upon this foundation; it should be wet and rolled properly. The stone that passes through the inch hole in the screen should be added next, putting on about two inches before it is rolled. The avenue should then be fil1ished with the dust from the crusher, making in all six inches of stone after it has been thoroughly rolled. An avenue built in this way will stand any amount of heavy traffic and always be satisfactory.

The State has spent an immense amount of money on the park driveways around the city of Boston and at the present day they are equal to any in the state, but I am sorry to say that many of the cemeteries, in fact, most of the cemeteries around Boston are not up to the standard set by the State in this respect.

Large amounts have been appropriated by the different States for building State highways. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts have perhaps taken hold of the question with more interest than the other States in the Union and I believe Massachusetts has spent more money and built more miles of road than any other state, and it has been demonstrated beyond a doubt, that every mile of road built has been of great benefit to the people using it and largely increased the valuation.

These roads have cost a large amount of money, but I believe it has been money wisely spent, for they serve as object lessons to every city and town through which they pass and today almost every town, no matter how small, has a stone crusher and a steam roller of its own. Every town should own its own plant if it has the proper stone at hand; if not the machinery is useless. Broken stone can be brought on the cars and delivered so near to the work and at such a small difference in cost that it is much better to buy the proper material than to undertake to use stone of an inferior quality. Great care should be taken in all cases to select the proper stone. A stone should be hard and tough and contain enough of the cementing qualities to make it bind. A stone may be hard and yet not contain the cementing or binding qualities and such a stone can never be rolled enough to make it bind, without adding some binding material.

The cost of building an avenue or road is hard to determine in such a way that it will cover all conditions. The expense of stone and hauling varies in different localities, but by careful study it has been found that ten cents for every inch in thickness per square yard is a safe estimate. This will furnish the stone, place it on the road and pay all the expense of rolling and watering the same and finishing it properly.

In some cases it can be done for seven or eight cents. On the basis of ten cents, if four inches of stone were used it would cost forty cents and if six inches were used-sixty cents and so on.

As has been stated, the time will come, without doubt, when every public drive will be arranged for the utmost pleasure of those who use it. It will be planned to take advantage of all outlooks over landscapes and it will thus come about that no educator will be more, efficient than our common roads in teaching refinement and inculcating a love of the beautiful.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the16th Annual Convention
Held at Boston, MA
August 19, 20, 21 and 22, 1902