CLEVELAND - There is a soft sound which rises from footfalls on the street. There is no concrete, nor asphalt, nor brick underfoot for those who walk and drive its length. Hessler Court is a street paved only of wood. For those who live and work near Hessler Court in Cleveland, the street is often a stopover point no matter where the travelers may be bound.
"Sometimes I drive on it just to look at its wooden blocks," said Larry Staggers, a carpenter who several years ago did some repair work on the street. Construction workers who pour concrete and lay asphalt are not welcome on this street unless they leave their working tools behind. Hessler is all wood -- all 60 yards of it. Though it is short, it draws much attention, mostly from walkers.
The short street stretches from the bricked Hessler Road to the asphalt Bellflower Avenue in the University Circle area of Cleveland. The wooden street is in a corner of the city where there are several buildings of Case Western Reserve University.
The street has existed since the early 1900s when wooden streets were more prevalent.
"The wooden street dates back to the era when people didn't have automobiles," said Patrick Holland who for 44 years has lived within sight of Hessler Court. He and his wife, Pitter Pratt, are fondly referred to as the "mayors of the wooden street" because of their love for it and their promotion of the unusual thoroughfare.
"The presence of the wooden streets allows us to sustain our landmark status and to make us eligible for participation in National Historic Registry activities," said Pratt, her eyes smiling as she spoke fondly of the street. When Cleveland began designating some of its neighborhoods as "historic," this area of the city was its first. The wooden street had much to do with the designation.
There is only one address which is on Hessler Court. However, the sides of several buildings of the university and two private residences are there.
There are university buildings nearby where students learn and practice music. However, Pratt believes the street itself has its own melody.
There is music in the street, there is no doubt about it," she offered.
The area is thick with trees with their branches hanging over the residential homes and apartments in the area. However, there are no trees hanging directly over Hessler. Its wood is all below the feet of travelers. Indeed, no one seems in a hurry when walking Hessler. Though there is no official survey, it is obvious most who walk along the street skip the sidewalk and pace the Hessler Court's Norfolk pine blocks.
Each block is about the size of a traditional brick used for street paving. The grains of the wood are visible to the naked eye. When cars move along Hessler, there is a soft sound coming from beneath the rubber tires.
The drive seems somewhat muted.
"It's very peaceful and green," said Maddie Hirsch, a CWRU student who is often on the street. "It's like a little world inside of Cleveland."
Both Pratt and Holland, who manage properties within sight of Hessler Court and who walk its wooden way several times daily, spoke of seeing former university students who return to Cleveland and look to see that nothing has changed on the street paved of wood.
"People come here to visit Hessler Court 50 years after they've left their residence and they walk down the street and say uniformly, 'I don't believe it's still here,'" recalled Pratt.
It is still there as it has been for generations. Through the years, it has had to be touched up with repairs made on the wooden blocks. But one gets the feeling the street will always exist. It is a pathway to the past which can be walked.
Those who step its wooden blocks do so in a stroll. They seem to savor the feel of the wood beneath their shoes. Many will remove their shoes and feel the wooden grain of Hessler Court against their toes. They walk it stride by slower stride, relishing each step, realizing the wooden street is a special place.