An 1865 picture of Petersburg shows a delightful hodgepodge of paving and other details of a streetscape in a 19th century small American city. All was constructed with manual labor. In pre-Emancipation South, slaves often did the job, though this is not a given. Hired laborers, white and black, had a place in the urban economy.
Petersburg being a granite town, the street itself looks to be paved with packed grout, here not mortar but granite chips–the waste of granite quarries. A line of larger stone makes a “spine” down the middle of the street leading to the courthouse, and near the corners (at the crossing) the orderly laying of the stones makes a gutter. Drainage was as essential then as now, to prevent ice and water (and horse urine) from destroying the street and endangering two- and four-footed pedestrians.
A manhole is in the center of the street. Sewage in a land where indoor plumbing is more the exception than the rule? The necessity for waste water management was known long before flush toilets, and urban sewage systems took away human and industrial waste water–and dumped it in rivers–so that it would not taint wells.
Streets weren’t always paved, but sidewalks were a must. The left and right sidewalks are brick-paved in the usual herringbone pattern, as is the sidewalk within the courthouse gate. The right sidewalk looks muddy. The missing patches of brick on the left indicate that the bricks were probably unmortared. The front sidewalk is laid with what appear to be square granite paving stones, but (on the right) only up to the merchant’s door. Once you leave the tin shop and cross over to the wholesale shoe house it’s back to brick.
The crossing, made of granite slabs, and the ramped transition from sidewalk to street are not to accomodate the handicapped, but rather for handcarts and wheelbarrows. Granite curbing, seen here, endures in many cities including Richmond. More granite: the steps inside the courthouse gate and the retaining wall.
At the front corner of the Wholesale Shoe House, a blur indicates motion. Is that the “ghost” of a little girl sitting on the ground? Or it could just be a package with a covering blowing in the wind that blurs the trees in the background.