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  1. #1
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    "Belgian Blocks"

    When I was a kid, people in Baltimore used to call the cobblestones that then still existed on some downtown streets "Belgian Blocks." The story was that they were used as ballast in ships from Europe and then were dumped when the ships were laden with things that were being shipped from the United States to Europe. The rectangular stone blocks did look just like the ones on the climbs in the Tour of Flanders and other "Spring Classics." Was/is the term "Belgian Blocks" generally used to describe cobblestones? Or, was this just a local usage?

    I have one very small stretch of "Belgian Blocks" on my commute home from work. There used to be quite a few streets near the Baltimore Harbor paved with Belgian Blocks well into the 1970s. Except for the ones over which I commute (they are used for decorative effect around a monument), the only Belgian Block pavements that still exist in Baltimore are in some alleys and other very derelict and unused streets.
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  2. #2
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    I've always thought that "Belgian Blocks" were just big mother paving blocks, usually 6"X6"X6". Before concrete or asphalt paving, streets had to be paved with either stone or brick. Brick streets looked nice, but needed a lot more mantainance than streets made of paving blocks. Many streets in older cities were originally brick or paving block. In the 20's and 30's & 40's, most were covered over with asphalt.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by MR_GRUMPY
    I've always thought that "Belgian Blocks" were just big mother paving blocks, usually 6"X6"X6". Before concrete or asphalt paving, streets had to be paved with either stone or brick. Brick streets looked nice, but needed a lot more mantainance than streets made of paving blocks. Many streets in older cities were originally brick or paving block. In the 20's and 30's & 40's, most were covered over with asphalt.

    We're talking about the same thing -- large granite blocks. The ones in Baltimore looked just like the cobblestones on the climbs of the Tour of Flanders. What I was wondering was whether the term "Belgian Blocks" was universal or local and whether the "Belgian Blocks" actually came from Belgium or whether it is just a generic term for cobblestones.
    I try to be perfectly civil, until someone really pisses me off.

  4. #4
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    Just generic. They used the term today, in the race in Virginia, about the "Belgian Blocks" on the climb.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MR_GRUMPY
    Just generic. They used the term today, in the race in Virginia, about the "Belgian Blocks" on the climb.

    That was the only time I've ever heard the term used, and I was like "wtf are they talking about?"

    Then I got it later on while riding my bike and felt like a moron. I had a Chevy Chase moment...


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  6. #6
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    I thought is was a generic term also. I have heard it used as a term for cobblestones.
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  7. #7
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    My wife worked at a local museum here in Lynchburg Virginia and confirmed the ballast story from what she heard. From what she heard they were hauled over as ballast and pulled from the ship when it was loaded with cargo from the US. They were used as cobblestones in the early days of the colonies. According to her, there are still some being used for street repairs here as they are recovered from other sites being removed. She doesn't know if that term may be used for generic cobblestones in other areas.
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  8. #8
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    First time I've ever heard of "Belgian Blocks." Cool story though.
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  9. #9
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    When I was a kid I had the job of building my parents a new 4 car parking area and driveway out of belgian blocks. Most of them where a 12" x 6" x 6 "....Granite weighs about 200 pounds per cubic foot (I also built my own stone house, not veneered, 18 inches of load bearing stone walls, footing to top of first floor (about 16 feet))

    I have no doubt they used them as ballast, but I gotta say, there musta been a LOT or trips back and forth, the east coast has/had a WHOLE lot of cobble stone roads!!!!!!!

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