J.C. Wonders

From Ohio History Central

Oldest Concrete Street in America.jpg
This image shows the Oldest Concrete Street in

America in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most roads were still unpaved. A small number of roads were paved with bricks or covered with wooden planks, but these were expensive solutions and still not comfortable. As first bicycles and then automobiles became more popular, Ohioans demanded better roads. The dirt roads were muddy when it rained and were very bumpy and uneven. In 1891, Bellefontaine city engineer J.C. Wonders decided to pave the street surrounding the courthouse square with Portland cement concrete. As a result of this innovation, Wonders became known as the father of concrete paving. Concrete was a smooth surface that was very durable. An automobile ride on concrete was much less bumpy than previous rides on dirt roads or even on brick.

Wonders' idea led the state of Ohio to appoint him as State Highway Commissioner in 1907. He was only the second commissioner in Ohio's history. In the years that followed, the state began to pave a number of its roads. It would still be a long time before the majority of roads were paved, as the process took time and was expensive.

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