Founded in 1682, Philadelphia has evolved from a muddy gleam in William Penn’s eye to the fifth largest city in the United States.
The pedestrian and horse-drawn movement of goods from the shipping outposts along the Delaware River were the cause of the rutted pathways which would become Old City’s streets. The streets for some time remained rivers of mud as industry and residences grew into the area, but by 1830 most of the city streets had been laid with cobblestones.
In 1876, the Centennial International Exhibition was held in Philadelphia. It was the first World’s Fair in the United States, timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. A major event, the Centennial Exhibition brought participants from around the world, including Belgium.
The Belgians built a pavilion devoted to advertising the city of Spa and its hot mineral springs. They built a courtyard for the Exhibition and paved it with blue-glazed granite. Once the Exhibition was over, Belgium gave the City the blocks of granite as a gift.
Some of these rare blocks still remain, but only in nine places around Philadelphia. Pay attention next time you stumble on the small streets, because you might be tripping over a bit of history.