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. Photo from Library of Congress.
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.