Cobblestone Houses

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Cobblestone house

Beginnings

There’s something very quaint and picturesque about cobblestone houses and buildings.

Building with cobblestones began in the 1800s and went on for about 40 years. It was a folk art that flourished in Western New York since 1825, until the Civil War broke out.

About 900 cobblestone buildings and houses were built in New York before the Civil War. Many of them still exist and are still being used today.

New York Cobblestone houses

Cobblestone houses can be seen all over the world. But New York’s cobblestone buildings stand out because they used a different material.

Instead of rocks, builders used tiny round stones, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. At that time, New York was rife with these small stones due to glacial deposits and wave action of Prehistoric Lake Iroquois and the much younger Lake Ontario.

In Europe, builders used flints to build their stone houses. In New York, whole stones were used in building, which were then set in soft lime mortar.

Builders started building with these round stones because they impeded on the early settlers who wanted to cultivate the land. And since there was an abundance of these stones in the area, they were a fairly inexpensive building material. Building with cobblestone became an art form, as each mason developed his own style and artistic creativity.

Masons in Western New York in particular, designed unique embellishments of the vertical and horizontal mortars. Some masons from the area went west. Cobblestone buildings popped up in the Midwest and in Ontario, Canada. Most of these houses though, about are in New York. Some historians even say that 75 percent of them are within a 75-mile radius of Rochester.

Today, organizations are on a quest to preserve these cobblestone houses, because the art of building them is practically dying. You can’t just build cobblestone houses anymore because of time and financial constraints. Cobblestones are also not as abundant now as had been over a century ago.

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