Garry Brewerbrewer62@bresnan.netGrand Junction HistorianGrand Junction Free Press Columnist

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October 19, 2012
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GJ HISTORY: Paving the way for trolleys and customers on Downtown Main Street

A few months ago, a donation of family photos came into the Loyd Files Room at the Museum of the West. In the group was an unpublished photo of the first paving of Main Street in Grand Junction. The photo didn't have any information on it, and it piqued my interest, so I started to work on the, who, what, and when, of this interesting picture. Who was doing the work, what was being done, what brought the change, and when was this done?A STUDY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHI learned through my investigation that this picture is of the first paving project in Grand Junction. The view is looking west from Fifth and Main. What is currently the Dalby, Wendland and Co. building on the northwest corner is prominently shown. It was built in 1910, so it's brand new in the picture. The addition, to the west, would not be constructed until 1922.To accommodate the paving, the electric poles were moved back to the sidewalks. They and the electric wire over the street were installed in early 1909 when the horse-drawn trolleys were replaced with electric cars. Notice, they are not in the 1907 photo. The workers on-site are referred to in the newspapers as the Greek track crew. The cement workers are busy with the vintage cement mixer, hired by the city in June 1911.The project began on Aug. 21, 1911, at Second and Main, so the photograph was taken sometime between that day and when paving ended at Seventh Street, on Nov. 2, 1911. Note the clock at the far right of the picture. The time is 8:17 a.m.MOVE TOWARD IMPROVEMENT BEGINSIn the early morning of May 22, 1909, at 5 a.m. to be precise, the citizens of Grand Junction were awakened as the first electric trolley car made its two test runs over the tracks on the streets of Grand Junction. Later in the afternoon, about 1:52 p.m., Edith Adams, the 5-year-old daughter of Orson Adams of the Grand Junction Electric, Gas and Manufacturing Co. "officially" pulled the lever to turn on the power for the overhead wires for the trolley cars. All this took place at the corner of Second and Main.This trolley system was the third most important event in Mesa County, after the coming of the Rio Grande Railroad in 1881-1882, and the construction of the first irrigation system. Not only was it a sign that our pioneer town was growing up, but traversing the horrendous muddy/dusty streets was no longer such an issue.The economic impact was almost immediate. Because of the new trolley system, the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Colorado and Wyoming, in May 1910 held its joint state meeting in Grand Junction. The 800 aging Union soldiers attending the event were getting older and appreciated the trolley system helping them move around town.With the new electric trolley system, it was only natural that citizens wanted to see continued improvement of Main Street. The city had already graded the streets before the trolley system was built, but there was not a requirement for streets to be paved. Of course, as with all change some people thought the unpaved streets in town were fine and didn't want to see them paved. They called themselves "Little Junctionites." However, during this time, events unfolded which pushed the point to pave the streets.Along with the dust, dirt and muddy streets, it cost a lot of time and money to dig and haul gravel and sand from the river each year to cover the street. Also, there was a big rock pile on the corner of Sixth and Colorado, where transients worked daily to break the stones into gravel. The continual and cacophonous noise wore on the citizens. All this added up to favor toward a PAVED STREET.PAVING BEGINSIn early 1911, Paving District No. 1 was created. Work would begin on Main at Second and would continue to Seventh Street. In June 1911, the City of Grand Junction ordered cement machinery so they could be ready for work as soon as the river receded enough for sand to be dug from its bottom.The city chose Earl L. Mosley as chief engineer to supervise the paving work on the street and the laying of a 9-foot-wide strip of trolley tracks. The electric power poles were reset on Main Street on June 2 and side tracks were laid so trolley service would go without interruption. A "Moonlight Car" was added on Saturday night to entice weekend shoppers through the construction phases.Earl Mosley hired local Greek workers, but politics quickly arose. The labor unions claimed the paving was being done by foreigners working 10 hour days at low wages. Not only that, they were outsiders and contributed little to the town's economy. In fact, Mr. Mosley was actually paying his workers $2 per day, when the usual wage for track gangs was $1.75.Engineer Mosley stated: "We are employing Greeks living in Grand Junction who have worked for us for the last two years and whose experience is necessary to have the work done according to the contract between the city and the railroad." However, after three days of this outcry from the unions and the city council, Earl Mosley resigned.After his resignation, Earl and his family moved from Grand Junction for new employment elsewhere. But before they left, he and his wife were given a huge public send off at the corner of Fourth and South streets.His Greek employees, community members and the officials and employees of the Grand Junction and Grand River Valley Railway Cos. presented him with a magnificent gold watch and watch fob with a thirty-third Masonry emblem on it for his services as chief engineer. His wife was given a box of fancy chocolates.The city council then hired W.H. Gmeiner as engineer and the paving moved ahead in August 1911, with the local Greek workers, in spite of the labor unions.With Mayor Todd and members of the community present, the work crews laid the first paved track at 9:05 a.m. on Aug. 21, 1911, at Second and Main streets. The mayor stated that Grand Junction was a "chrysalis from a county town to a butterfly of a city."The railway company was in charge of laying the 9-foot-wide trolley strip. Six inches of concrete were put down. After the ties were laid, concrete was poured around them. A cushion of sand was placed on top of this and paving bricks with joints filled with tar were placed on the sand. After the trolley tracks were securely in place, the rest of the street width was paved with concrete by the contractors hired by Mr. Mosley.The paving of Main from Second to Seventh was started Aug. 21, 1911 and finished on Nov. 2, 1911, when Walter Gmeiner and his foreman, a man named Darling, finished the streets and sidewalks. The side streets of Second, Fourth, and Fifth Street would be finished in the spring of 1912.The citizens of Grand Junction rejoiced. Instead of crossing muddy streets they could finally set their feet on pavement. But now, the people had to learn how to clear snow and ice from concrete in the winter instead of a mud hole.For those in Grand Junction who watched the recent repaving of Main Street over the last few years (2010-11) and obtained an old brick and a piece of the trolley tracks from the work crews on Main Street for their memorabilia collection, now you know that 101 years ago, the who, what and when of your piece of Grand Junction history went into Main street.=======================Garry Brewer is storyteller of the tribe; finder of odd knowledge and uninteresting items; a bore to his grandchildren; a pain to his wife on spelling; but a locator of golden nuggets, truths and pearls of wisdom. Email Garry at brewer62@bresnan.net.---------------------------------------SOURCES & PHOTOS: Wanda Allen; Debbie Brockett; Museum of Western Colorado, Loyd Files Room; Michael Menard & David Bailey; Grand Junction News; Daily Sentinel files; Snap Photo; "The Fruit Belt Route" by William L. McGuire and Charles Teed; Mesa County Library; Bill Buvinger.


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The Post Independent Updated Oct 19, 2012 04:47PM Published Oct 19, 2012 04:43PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.