This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Handsomely located, regularly graded, and well-constructed roads are chief among the attractions of a fine country place, and constitute one of its most effective improvements. When well done, they are done for all time, and afford a degree of satisfaction which no inferior work will compensate for.
It is highly important, in making ornamental roads, that its principal points of beauty should be well developed, as in the mere matter of construction the expense would not differ on an ill-chosen line awkwardly laid out, and one that embraces all the good points the ground will admit of.
The nice adjustment of curves and the regular distribution of grades give an artistic polish that is wonderful in effect, and surprising even to those who are not novices in such matters, but who have not seen the beautiful results of engineering skill. To know precisely the position, the direction, the grade, the amount of earth work, and the cost of an ornamental road, before a shovel enters the ground, is always desirable to one who sets about making improvements in a business-like manner; and as he can know thoroughly all these things in advance, if he has a wish to know them, the opportunity is afforded to make every change that taste or means would suggest, without the necessity of doing the work over twice, or trying experiments in moving earth to find that which is most beautiful. The results of engineering practice are of the most absolute character, and what a road shall be in every respect, in use, in appearance, etc, is thoroughly known to him without the necessity of moving a sod; and however impracticable his work, when laid out, may appear to an inexperienced eye, it does not fail in its final finish to give the most gratifying results.
Some of the most pleasing portions of our practice in road building has been in the very agreeable disappointments produced by fulfilling every promise we have made relating to the final effect, beauty, and expense, when, during the process of construction, all appearances were against us.
What is true in road building is equally true in other departments of landscape art, which, if properly and judiciously planned and studied in advance, would obviate not only the almost certain blunders that are made, but the heavy expense attending them. It is no uncommon thing for one who proposes to spend $10,000 in embellishing his country home, to end with an expenditure of $30,000; and he who means to go as far as $30,000 spends perhaps $30,000 more, and "then conies to himself, and confesses the hobby is over;" so many mistakes, so much wasted money and time, that it becomes disagreeable to contemplate.
There is no economy whatever in doing any thing in a cheap manner; "what ever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well," and it is better to progress slowly and surely than to execute improvements imperfectly. A judicious choice in making the principal roads on a country estate pretending to display evidences of refined taste, would not stop short of first class workmanship and material, because a well-made road does not require that expense in annual repair, is easily kept in fine order, free from weeds, and is always a source of gratification to the owner. Those who do not place much importance upon a neat appearance, or wish to go beyond the truly practical, can not appreciate the pleasing impressions to be made by a finely graded, hard, smooth, handsome drive. Nothing else, should be tolerated in a place of any pretension. The graduation and align ment of roads of all classes should be carefully studied, as all the principal points of their attractiveness, except in surface and keeping, are embraced in their direction and rate of ascent and descent.
The construction of a first class roadway is the same whether the alignment and grades be handsomely and artistically adjusted or not; and if these be well done, there is an added beauty that no elaboration of surface or care in keeping will compensate for.
It is quite necessary in some sections where stone or other road materials are scarce, or where close economy must be studied, that the road bed should be entirely on the earth, and the inconveniences and untidiness of soft and muddy roads submitted to. Thorough drainage will in many cases remedy to a great extent such evils, although it can never entirely alleviate them. All roads of whatever character, passing over ground naturally wet or retentive of moisture, should be thoroughly underdrained; this is one of the vital principles of successful road-making, and the money and time devoted to such purpose can never be reckoned as misspent.
From a natural earth road we can advance through all degrees of covering until we reach that which fifty years' experience shows to be the best. We can improve the surface of an earth road, if it be clay, by laying on sand; of a sand road, by laying on clay. We can use coal ashes, wood ashes, and charcoal to advantage; scoria, furnace slag, and the different classes of gravel. Then we can advance still higher in the scale of excellence, and make use of different methods of making stone roads. We can get rid of money pretty freely by adopting the common home-made plan of making roads of boulders and field stone dumped into a ditch eighteen inches to three feet in depth, and flatter ourselves at the same time that we have got rid of the stone. We can hand-pack fractured field stone to a foot in depth, cover the same abundantly with gravel, and get a good and expensive road. We can use the irregular size spawls or chippings from quarries, more particularly those found where the New York Belgian pavement is quarried; and these, covered with gravel or other good binding material, will make a good road; or the so-called gravel obtained from the limestone quarries on the Hudson makes a good covering by itself, if the larger pieces be raked to the bottom; and as a binding and finishing material over a course of evenly broken stone, is for an ornamental road on a private estate one of the most beautiful and desirable that we have met with.
The class of road above all others that fulfils all conditions of excellence combined with a true system of economy, is a modification of the McAdam system. This consists in placing upon a properly prepared road-bed broken stone of an average size of two and a quarter inches cube, to a depth not exceeding six inches; then rolling the same thoroughly with a heavy roller, in such a manner that the single stones can not be detached or picked up; over this, as a binding material, and for the purpose of giving at once a smooth finish, put from one to two inches of gravel, which must also be well rolled, and is best done after a good rain.
The advantages of building a road in this manner are as follows: the earth excavation is very much reduced, as the total thickness of the road metal and binding need not exceed eight inches, and may be of no greater depth than six inches; the least possible amount of stone is used, which is desirable where stone is not plenty, and where stone is abundant there are cheaper modes of disposing of it than burying it in road beds. The stones being all of equal size, none will work up, as is the case where stone of different size are used; the stone being fractured and angular, finally unite and become a compact, impenetrable body. It improves by age and use, becoming better as years go by; less weeds grow in it, and it requires less labor to keep it in first class-order. It can not wash on steep grades, and if properly made it is impossible for surface water to gully it; frost can not affect it, as its action is distributed uniformly on a mass composed of hundreds of smaller particles, each one of which yields slightly. The use of the roller in the spring is an effectual remedy for the action of frost on a road of this character. It costs less money to build a road in this manner than to build a first-class, substantial road in any other way.
It is the simplest form of road to build, the specifications for which can be easily understood. It has been tested for a long series of years, and under all conditions of use and exposure. We have adopted this plan for several years where first-class work was desired, and with the most gratifying success. One experimental road built four years ago, the total thickness of broken stone and gravel being but five inches, has, with constant use, remained in all seasons firm, dry, and smooth, and the cost of keeping it in polished order has been literally nothing. We have just finished two roads on the Hudson, upwards of 1,600 feet long, having a layer of broken stone of uniform size, two and a quarter inches cube, and six inches in thickness, covered with a layer of the Haverstraw limestone gravel one and a half inch to two inches thick. We can safely say, in the very extensive range of our experience, that, outside of the Central Park, there are no ornamental roads possessing so many strictly first class principles - hard, smooth, durable, beautiful, and economical.