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Monday, March 14, 2011

Uncovering Monument Ave cobblestones - 1974

I remember reading years ago about a Monument Avenue resident who courageously stood in front of the trucks and equipment that were set to pave over the cobblestones. So I was a bit surprised to find these images of city workers removing pavement on Monument Ave to reveal the old cobblestones. However, a close inspection of the second to last image below shows only the approach to the Lee traffic circle (and the circle itself) as being paved. The rest appears unpaved. Below is a quote I found on this website.

"...the planned repaving of Monument Avenue in 1968 provided an opportunity for public discussion. Helen Marie Taylor, the owner of a huge mansion at 2325 Monument, stood in front of a paving machine that was to lay asphalt over the original asphalt Belgian blocks. Commuters and residents alike complained about the noise the blocks made when driven over, but when it came to repaving, the residents chose history over progress: The earlier events had primed the public, so when Mrs. Taylor blocked the work of the paving machine, the entire city joined in the debate. The homeowners and preservationists won the battle after some months, and Monument Avenue's fate had become a part of the public agenda."

The photos below are from June of 1974 and were taken at the end of the 1600 block of Monument Ave, heading west, almost right in front of a building I lived in for a year. Anyone know if the woman in the second picture is Helen Marie Taylor? Little did these workers know they were dooming hundreds of parked cars in the Lee Circle for years to come: Those cobblestones are slippery when wet! I personally saw a good dozen cars hit while I lived there. But I'm still glad they removed the pavement.

Click the photos below for the high resolution images.






Photos courtesy of VCU Libraries

9 comments:

  1. Not being actual cobblestones, I wonder what the romance of asphalt blocks is about.

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    1. They are old. And this is Richmond.

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  2. There is more here than meets the eye...From what I was told the original cobblestones are the smaller ones but the cobblestones being uncovered aren't asphalt. They are granite "setts" which were smoother & larger to make it easier for horses and carriages to travel over. They probably came from European rivers and streams and may have been used as ballast in ships. These roads in downtown Richmond go back to the 1700-1800's. I think it's rather romantic to wonder who's travelled on them before us.

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    1. They were asphalt blocks.

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  3. I know that Helen Taylor laid down on the street and refused to get up until the machines went away. She is the reason there is no asphalt today.

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    1. Helen Taylor did not lay down on the street. She stood in front of the machines with her arms outstretched and refused to move.

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  4. I remember when they paved over the cobblestone in my neighborhood of Oregon Hill in the 1960's

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  5. The word cobblestone is frequently mis-used in place of brick, Belgian block, paving stones or simply pavers, Monument Avenue appears to be paved with bricks to me, although they have been called asphalt blocks (which is new to me) perhaps one might call them asphalt-bricks. Cobblestons are rounded stones which are incredibly unforgiving to drive on and more so to try to walk on and not sprain one's ankle or worse.

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    1. In addition I believe many people use cobblestone as a generic-name for any street surface that is not asphalt or cement. In general if paving looks like brick, call it that - if you ever see paving that looks like small rounded stones then indeed call it cobblestone.

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