black and white asphalt road

History of Asphalt

What we consider to be asphalt now has really come a long way since it was first discovered. Asphalt occurs naturally in asphalt lakes and rock asphalt. Now, we mix it with other strong substances to improve its strength and sustainability. Read to learn about asphalt history and when the various types of asphalt were first used for roads.

When Were Roads First Paved?

625 B.C.

In the history of pavement design, the first recorded use of asphalt for building roads was in 625 B.C. in Babylon. The name for asphalt comes from the Greek word “asphaltos” meaning secure. It has been a material that represents and provides stability throughout its history.

1595History of Asphalt

Around 2,000 years after it was first used as a road, asphalt was discovered occurring naturally in the New World. Sir Walter Raleigh discovered an asphalt lake in Trinidad. He used the material to patch holes in his ships.


During the 19th century, we witnessed a great moment in asphalt history: the first paved roads in the US. Sheet asphalt from Trinidad Lake was used to pave Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. This was part of an initiative to improve Washington City’s streets. In November of 2012, the street was repaved using warm-mix asphalt in preparation for President Obama’s second inauguration.


The Warren brothers built the first modern asphalt facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Soon after, equipment improvement began, and the industry moved from cement concrete mixers to drum mixers, cold-fed systems, and pressure injection systems.


The second World War spurred dramatic improvements in asphalt quality. Surfaces had to stand up to heavy military aircraft loads, and the asphalt industry met the demands.


Due to the Interstate Highways Act, $51 billion was allotted to road construction in the United States. This allotment led to technology development including electronic leveling controls, extra-wide finishers, and vibratory steel wheel rollers.

Asphalt Remains the Best Choice for Strong Surfaces

Throughout asphalt history, this material has proven to be the best choice for paving. It’s now America’s most recycled material. Americans recycle 70 million tons of asphalt each year. The EPA has also taken asphalt plants off its list of industries that are considered major sources of hazardous air pollutants.
Be confident knowing you’re making a smart and safe choice when you contact us to have your new asphalt driveway installed.