Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The old cobblestones

Cobblestones and setts (adoquin) are part of the traditional urban landscape of Valparaiso. They represent the past of the area preserved as World heritage site by UNESCO and despite their unknown history for many also show the urban geology and stoneworking techniques developed in this port through the XIX century. Earlier on and up to 1840s streets in town were covered by simple empedrado and enlosado using more metamorphic granodiorite such as the ones seen at the right at the top photograph. This was the stone state of art up to 1850s when Juan Melgarejo, governor of Valparaiso from 1840 onwards tried to get setts made locally. This first try didn't work so at the end Melgarejo contracted the ballast bulk weight of returning sailing ships coming back half empty from Liverpool and other ports to carry european cobblestones and setts as ballast weight. Therefore, surprisingly enough according to the records, the earliest sett streets of the country were paved with material of english and scandinavian origin. Later on, local makers started to make setts from granodiorite and andesite rocks and their origin still may be traced associated with the names of the places where they got the material to make it, the canteras.
I wrote some more on this subject in Spanish at: