The History of Concrete Blocks

Updated March 23, 2017

According to, the history of concrete goes back to about the first century BC in ancient Greece or Rome. However, commercial concrete block manufacture did not become established until the early 20th century.

Precast Concrete Blocks

Precast concrete blocks began as shapes cast in wooden frames, dried until solid, then laid in mortar. American contractors used these blocks in the mid-1800s.

The Concrete Block Machine

In 1900, Harmon S. Palmer patented a machine that made concrete blocks. Not the first machine to do this, its practical design and durability helped start the modern concrete block industry, according to Pamela H. Simpson, professor of art history at Washington and Lee University.

Other Inventions

Improvements to Portland cement, consisting of clay and limestone, also played a role in furthering the concrete block industry. Portland cement acts as the binder in concrete. Additionally, concrete block buildings had their start when H.A. Donald erected the first rock-face concrete block in 1915. This type of building construction continues to this day.

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About the Author

Lexa W. Lee is a New Orleans-based writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has contributed to "Central Nervous System News" and the "Journal of Naturopathic Medicine," as well as several online publications. Lee holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Reed College, a naturopathic medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and served as a postdoctoral researcher in immunology.