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Beacon Hill | Battle of the Bricks

On the PhotoWalks Beacon Hill walking tour, you’ll notice many details that give Boston’s historic, exclusive neighborhood its distinct charm and character: brick sidewalks. Thanks to a group of determined women, they took it upon themselves to preserve the brick sidewalks forever.

In 1947, rumors were 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 feisty protesters 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! Come see West Cedar Street today on either one of these tours:

PhotoWalks Beacon Hill tour or the Highlights of Boston tour.

Beacon Hill Boston MA


a vintage photo of a man