The Belgian Blocks of Lower East Side Streets

Posted on: May 14th, 2010 at 6:34 am by

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Before asphalt pavement became the norm, most New York City streets were paved with “Belgian block,” rectangular granite slightly larger than brick. The method was allegedly first introduced in the city around 1850.  Some still survive in quiet residential areas and in historic districts, but have mostly disappeared from view.

Walking the streets of the Lower East Side, it’s not uncommon to find such Belgian block beneath today’s more modern road surfaces.  It turns out that removal is a lot of work, so it was often easier to pave over. Just around the corner from the Museum, on Broome Street between Orchard and Ludlow, some blocks are peeking through a gap in the asphalt. Meanwhile, Orchard Street between Broome and Delancey is paved in asphalt that has been embossed with lines to look like Belgian block.

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[Photo Credit: Chris Neville]

Have you discovered any old granite blocks still intact around the neighborhood?

Written by Chris Neville, Tenement Museum

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