Ernul Brick Road

Ernul Brick Road is the last remaining brick segment of an old brick highway that once connected Vanceboro to New Bern. At 1.2 miles in length, it is one of the longer stretches of brick road left in the state.

Like many rural counties within North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century, Craven County's road network was almost non-existent.  Early in the 1900s, the county began improving local roads by constructing steel and concrete bridges.  Next, the county undertook a system of road paving projects of concrete or brick.  In 1917, the county contracted the Georgia Engineering Company of Augusta to pave 11 miles of the Vanceboro Road. (1) These roads would be paved with "vitrified paving bricks." (1)

The creation of the North Carolina State Highway System in 1921 gave the brick-paved Vanceboro Road a number; it was now NC 30.  Vanceboro Road and NC 30 became US Highway 17 a few years later.  In 1931, US 17 was moved onto a straighter and wider route between New Bern and Vanceboro, leaving the old narrow brick road behind.

Ernul Brick Road is a mix of original brick and asphalt.  The nine-foot-wide road was commonplace in the early 1900s.

For decades, much of the old brick highway survived.  It was known as Old Brick Road, Ernul Brick Road, and Askins Brick Road.  Over time, crews paved a thin layer of asphalt over the brick roadway - but it kept the narrow nine-foot width, and many of the brick pavers were still visible.  Sometime between 1995 and 1999, Old Brick Road - from Ernul north to Vanceboro - was widened to handle two lanes and paved with asphalt. (1)

The proposed New Bern-Washington Brick Road Historic District.  Since 1999, Askins Brick Road (C) has been paved, and the brick culvert off US 17 (B) has been removed.  Ernul Brick Road (A) remains a mix of brick road and asphalt over brick.  (NCDOT)

In 1999, NCDOT proposed a New Bern-Washington Brick Road Historic District.  The district would include Ernul Brick Road, a small surviving segment with an original brick culvert parallel to modern US 17, and Askins Brick Road.  Unfortunately, the Historic District designation never occurred.  By 2007, the 2.5 miles of Askins Brick Road was widened and paved, and the original brick culvert along US 17 was removed.

While the advisory speed is 35 miles per hour, you'll find yourself going a lot slower down Ernul Brick Road.

Ernul Brick Road is the last remaining piece of the New Bern to Vanceboro brick highway.  It begins at the Ernul Post Office and runs south to US 17.  It is a mix of brick and a thin asphalt overlay.  In many spots, grass grows up from between the bricks and to the road surface.

Ernul Brick Road at the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

The tree-lined road passes fields, homes, and a church.  Just before US 17, Ernul Brick Road crosses the tracks of the Norfolk Southern - the crossing guarded by an old oak tree. The speed limit is not marked, but it's easy to go all of 10 miles an hour - or slower.  Turning the radio off is a must, as this drive and its surroundings take you in.

Ernul Brick Road curves back to US 17.

While the Historic District designation failed over 25 years ago, Ernul Brick Road should be considered for a State Scenic Byway.  This designation would help preserve the short route's rural and historic heritage.  The success of Mecklenburg County's McAuley Road in receiving a Scenic Byway designation shows that old brick - or dirt roads - can be preserved for future generations.

All photos taken by post author May 1, 2024, unless otherwise noted.

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