Cobblestones Spoke to Thomas Wolfe’s Soul.
But cobblestones and brick pavers provided some side benefits that were not recognized or considered very important at the time that they began to fall out of favor. One of the benefits that this type of road surface provides is rainwater absorption. The cracks between the cobblestones and brick pavers allow for water to be absorbed into the road bed, thus reducing rainwater run-off. Run-off has become a major consideration when plans are reviewed for new construction projects.
Cobblestone and brick paver road surfaces also have a traffic-calming effect on automotive traffic. The gapped and uneven surfaces of cobblestones and brick pavers result in a rougher and nosier ride for motorists, and consequently cause motorists to travel at slower speeds when traversing this type of surface.
Another important advantage to the cobblestone and brick paver road surface is the aesthetic beauty of this type of surface. Within downtown areas, people tend to find a cobblestone or brick surface more attractive and aesthetically pleasing to the eye than the now prevalent petroleum-based pavement surfaces. Because of the durability of the cobblestone and brick surfaces, they also lend an historic feel to the streets that they cover.
Thomas Wolfe, an Asheville native and world-renowned author, expressed some unique insights on the subject of cobblestone streets in his book, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” In “You Can’t Go Home Again,” Wolfe wrote,
“The pavement finally halts all, stops all, answers all. It is the American pavement, Admiral Drake, our universal city sidewalk, a wide hard strip of grey-white cement, blocked accurately with dividing lines. It is the hardest, coldest, cruelest, most impersonal pavement in the world: all of the indifference, the atomic desolation, the exploded nothingness of one hundred million nameless “Greens” is in it.
In Europe, Drake, we find worn stone, all hollowed out and rubbed to rounded edges. For centuries the unknown lives of men now buried touched and wore this stone, and when we see it something stirs within our hearts, and something strange and dark and passionate moves our souls, and -“They were here!” we say.
Not so, the streets, the sidewalks, the paved places of America. Has man been here? No. Only unnumbered nameless Greens have swarmed and passed here, and none has left a mark.
Did ever the eye go seaward here with searching for the crowded sail, with longing for the crowded sail, with longing for the strange and unknown coasts of Spain? Did ever beauty come home to the heart and eyes? Did ever, in the thrusting crowd, eye look to eye, and face to face, and heart to heart, and know the moment of their meeting-stop and pause, and be oblivious in this place, and make one spot of worn pavement sacred stone? You won’t believe it, Admiral Drake, but it is so— these things have happened on the pavements of America. But, as you see yourself, they have not left their mark.”
In downtown Asheville, one short block of brick pavers remains uncovered by pavement. This short block is located on North Market Street between College Street and Walnut Street near the Thomas Wolfe House Memorial. The Thomas Wolfe House Memorial is located at 52 North Market Street.