Students investigate significance of brick streets

PULLMAN, Wash. – Red brick is a symbol of Pullman, from the historic downtown to the traditional buildings of Washington State University. Led by associate professor Phil Gruen, nine WSU students from several disciplines are working to preserve the town’s last two blocks of red brick-paved street.
Brick streets
Part of Pullman’s two blocks of red brick-paved streets.
(Photo by Tim Marsh for WSU News)

The students are preparing an application to have the L-shaped segment of Maple and Palouse streets, at the southwest corner of College Hill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Gruen, a faculty member in the School of Design and Construction, said the project will help legitimize “the historic significance of the built environment.”

“College Hill residents really connect with these brick streets,” said Allison Munch-Rotolo, chair of the College Hill Association. “The way they look, feel and even sound is distinctive and contributes to the neighborhood’s unique sense of place.”
She approached Gruen and Michael Schwartz-Oscar, assistant director in the WSU Center for Civic Engagement, in the fall about students helping with the effort to list the streets. Seven properties and one district in Pullman already are on the list.
“I hope the research the students are conducting will help more people to appreciate the streets and perhaps, ultimately, to preserve them for future generations to experience,” said Munch-Rotolo.
“The red brick streets are an essential part of the historic characteristics of Pullman and, in seeking to preserve this historical heritage, a total approach should be adopted,” said public history student Robert Franklin. “The street does not just lead to the home or office; it is a part of the journey and a part of history.”
Students working on the project are in Gruen’s Architecture 494/520 class, Seminar in Urban and Regional Planning/ Directed Topics in Architecture.