Ever wonder why we make such a big deal about the stones in the roadway?
There is history in these blocks. Chris Potter, editor of Pittsburgh City Paper, wrote a great article on Pittsburgh's early road materials in 2004. We started with wooden blocks, then cobblestone, then belgian block. Cobblestones are just any old rocks and were often round or irregluar in shape. Belgian block is made of granite cut into a regular rectangular shape.
Belgian Block became a popular road material in the late 1800s. It was the most expensive option available but it was the most durable and offered the smoothest, quietest ride available at the time. In many places thoughout the City, if the pothole is big enough, you can see clear down to the original paving - block stone! The new design for Market Square requires a lot of belgian block... more than we had. Fortunately, there is belgian block all over the City. That's how we got the rest of the belgian block needed for Market Square. While they were working on the Rivers Casino project they uncovered a bunch of belgian block that could be reused in this City project. So now that piece of Pittsburgh history gets to see the light of day again in Market Square.
Pittsburgh is very good at maintaining a deep connection to its history and at the same time being a center of innovation. It's not just the architecture that makes people speak of Pittsburgh as more of a European City, it's that cultural connection we have to past, present and future. And its one of the things transplants like me really love about this city. As the center of Downtown, Market Square really represents that - a connection to its past while it greets new businesses and residents, a place you can sit and enjoy historic buildings and skyscrapers at the same time. Our sneakers and tires roll across the blocks that once clattered with fancy laced boots and horse hooves, and although we still eat oysters in the Square instead of reading penny newspapers we can watch the news on the TV at the bar, read the online paper with the Downtown WiFi, or pull out our smart phones! That's pretty exciting!