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Battle of the Bricks in Beacon Hill

One of the many details that give Boston’s Beacon Hill its distinct charm and character is its brick sidewalks. Thanks to a group of determined women, they took it upon themselves to preserve the brick sidewalks for posterity.

In 1947, rumors had been swirling that Mayor James Michael Curley wanted to repave Beacon Hill’s sidewalks with cement. On a cool April morning, Mrs. Dewey was furious at what she saw happening outside her window. A worker was tossing one brick after another onto the back of a truck. She raced out of her home and outstretched her entire body on the brick sidewalk. The Battle of the Bricks was about to begin.

The ladies of Beacon Hill joined Mrs. Dewey’s passive protest. They sat on the brick sidewalks for several days as a loud bulldozer started digging up the bricks on West Cedar Street. Mothers and their children and grandmothers refused to move from their gathering spot and fiercely protected their beloved brick sidewalks from destruction.

The New York Times mocked the wealthy female protesters. Undeterred, they boarded a bus to Boston City Hall and were ready to take on the formidable Mayor Curley. They read their impassioned letters out loud and received support from the Boston Society of Architects. The Street Commissioner insisted that the bricks were old, deteriorating and hazardous. The ladies continued to object and proved there hadn’t been any accidents on the sidewalks.

Finally, the heated debate between the ladies of Beacon Hill and City Hall came to an end. Mayor Curley conceded to the protesters and said, “Let them have bricks. You can’t sweep back the ocean with a broom.”

Who says you can’t fight City Hall? Thank you, Ladies!

Here’s an image of the feisty protesters and some captures around West Cedar Street today.