Ah, that iconic New York City cobblestone. Well, technically, as die hard New Yorkers are keen to correct, it’s known as Belgian block. The Historic Districts Council (HDC) recently a study on New York City’s Belgian block heritage, in the context of providing policies towards a more accessible historic streetscapes.

Here are 10 fun facts from the report about this historic paving in New York City:

1. Belgian Blocks Typically Date to the 19th and 20th Century

Belgian block on Broadway and 42nd Street, now Times Square, between 1898 and 1900

Although there is Belgian block in New York City that supposedly dates to the Revolutionary War, such as on Clove Road in Brooklyn (featured in Untapped Cities’ recent book Secret Brooklyn: An Unusual Guide), most of this type of historic pavement dates to the 19th and 20th Century, writes the HDC. The organization also attests that “what’s under foot matters,” and that “amid the ongoing work of protecting and celebrating civic heritage, paving materials, so often neglected, deserve their due as irreplaceable historic assets.”

At the same time, the organization recognizes that the mobility needs of today are drastically different from that of the 19th and 20th centuries, which was dominated by travel by horse-drawn carriage and street car. Today, pavement must accommodate a “new influx of local residents and modes of transportation necessary to create a walkable, bikeable, sustainable city of the 21st century,” attests the HDC.

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  1. This first image cannot be any earlier than 1898 and no later than 1902. The “The Moth and the Flame” starring Herbert Kelcey and Effie Shannon, opened on stage in 1898 at the original Lyceum located at 4th Ave., between 23rd and 24th Streets. Founded by Thomas Edison, the Lyceum was the first theater in the world to be wired for electricity. The original Lyceum was torn down in 1902 and the much grander structure you see today completed in 1903 at 149 West 45th and Broadway. The closing date of “The Moth and the Flame” at the original location is unknown. One theory explaining why no date is recorded is that the play may have ran right up to the original theater’s demolition.

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