Hook: A part of the New York City fantasy many people have is sitting down outside with a piping hot cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other, watching people pass by on the cobblestone streets. Something that has been disappearing at a fast pace but is still a huge part of NYC are the cobblestone streets, and not enough people are aware.
Thesis: Cobblestone streets are being abandoned and going unnoticed due to the rise of automobiles, but this does not account for the replacement of cobblestone streets with asphalt. These streets need to be restored to their bumpier past for historical, utilitarian and cultural reasons.
Argument 1: The historic aspect of cobblestone streets are too important and comfort isn’t an acceptable reason to cover the streets with asphalt.
Evidence 1: 1876 treatise noted that a specific pavement type was especially well adapted to heavy street traffic in New York, and had been placed on Broadway south of 14th Street (Gillmore)
Evidence 2: while the aesthetic valuation of asphalt in the 19th century was based on progress and the future, the aesthetic reevaluation of paving stones in the 20th century is based on historicity and the past.
Evidence 3: The limited number of cobblestone streets give them more value due to rarity.
Their obsolescence is the link to the historic image, so there is a value to it.
The use of horses were the main reason for the use of cobblestones back in the 19th century.
Another reason was to help drainage. (even though this was not as successful)
From the 1820s Belgian blocks were brought in
They were brought in for ship ballasts but it began to have another use for them.
Argument 2: Cobblestone streets are not only aesthetically pleasing but also useful in different areas.
Evidence 1: Asphalt encourages cars to speed while cobblestones found new utility as traffic-calming instruments (McCluskey).
Counter Argument: ADA standards for floor and ground surfaces – Accessible floor and ground surfaces must be stable, firm, and slip resistant. Stable surfaces resist movement, while firm surfaces resist deformation by applied forces. Accessible surfaces remain unchanged by external forces, objects, or materials.
Cobblestones and other rough surfaces make wheelchair travel difficult so some cobblestone roads does not fir the law.
Evidence 2: Cobblestones have long durability and can be reused multiple times.
Evidence 3: Increase of disappearing form of art. -> connects to argument 3
Argument 3: Cobblestone streets hold a big cultural value because of their beauty and rarity.
Evidence 1: Cobblestones are a part of a lost art. One of the reasons people have trouble recovering the roads are because there aren’t any people left to fix what is broken.
Evidence 2: An 1848 tract on road construction says that the conditions of roads are signs of civilization: “The roads of a country are accurate and certain tests of the degree of its
civilization. Their construction is one of the first indications of the emergence of a people from
the savage state (Gillespie)
Counter Argument: High cost and hardship in reparation due to the lack of skill
Evidence 3: “asphalt is the smoothest, driest, cleanest, most pleasing to the eye, and most
agreeable for general purposes, but wood is the most quiet” (cited in Gillmore 200)
The development and effort to bring cobblestone streets can be a revival of the lost art, and become a part of the beautiful street views.
Authentic cobblestones are hard to come by. They carry a great value and that is what attracts people.
Their association with more wealthy neighborhoods
Summary: Cobblestones have value in so many different aspects and minor discomforts are not acceptable reasons to cover them up with asphalt.
What I learned: There is much more to the stone streets that we see everyday even though it seems forgotten and meaningless.