Cobblestone cowboys

cobble 2
Looking uphill.

BEING A GUY, I like to watch construction. I prefer watching to actually doing,  It’s hard work, and I’ve done it.

For instance, I was a minor player in the wiring installation throughout an entire Schwegmann’s supermarket in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie in the mid-1980s.

Yes, I used to be an electrician.

But watching construction is more fun than participating in the work, and I’ve been watching this construction for weeks. It holds special interest because of two factors:

One, it’s a taco’s toss from our Downtown Casita.

Two, this is a wide, major street that was almost impossible to navigate due to its steep incline and mass of potholes.

Here’s the thing about cobblestones. They look cute and historic, but when they go bad, they are a nightmare. Give me a smooth, concrete, street surface any day.

Our downtown has more cobblestones than I like. It’s done because we are a tourist attraction, and it’s what people expect to see in a 500-year-old town in Mexico.

Laying cobblestone is labor-intensive. There’s no cobblestone-laying machine. It’s done strictly by hand.

If the street is long and/or wide, and you want to get it done with a minimum of delay, you better hire lots of guys, which is not difficult hereabouts because lots of guys didn’t see the value in finishing high school.

In this project, the stepped sidewalks on both sides also are receiving a makeover, at some points getting wrought-iron railings to reduce the chance of plunging from the sidewalk to your death on the cobblestones far below.

Yes, I enjoy watching construction. I never saw anyone laying a cobblestone street in Houston or even in New Orleans where you might expect to find them. But you don’t.

Maybe if someone invented a cobblestone-laying machine.

cobble
From top looking down. Cobblestones are new and smooth in foreground.

37 thoughts on “Cobblestone cowboys”

    1. Steve: Since mannish feminism (a redundancy) has never caught on in Mexico — and never will — it is common to see women in spike heels navigating our downtown streets. It ain’t easy.

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  1. The road in front of our house was cobbled by two 14-15 yr. olds and a maestro over the course of about 3 weeks. It was a comedy of hard work.

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    1. Señor Cotton: The excess of sand is just one of the drawbacks to where you live, as I mention frequently, of course. If you really want cobblestones out there, just hire a gang to do it. Piece of cake, and less sand in your house. Won’t affect the stifling heat, of course.

      No sand outside my house, but it is quite chilly this morning. I’m wearing a fur hat.

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        1. Señor Cotton: Mountain man, but the fur is synthetic. More sanitary that way. Quite warm and toasty. Bought it at Sears on Sunday. I’d really like to have one of those Russian numbers though.

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            1. Don Cuevas: True, it is. But I’m no tree-hugger. I’m on the fence about hunting. Sometimes it can be useful (to wildlife even). Other times no. I do not consider wild animals my friends. But I don’t hunt myself, and haven’t since I was a teenager in the backwoods of southwest Georgia with a shotgun and/or a .22.

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  2. I love the way they mix concrete and/or mortar in this country – that is right on the street. No need for fancy mixers or such. Just mix it up and get the job done, sorta.

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    1. Jeff: In 2002 when our guys began the construction of our house, and I was far less familiar with Mexican construction techniques than I am now, I was very surprised to see them mix the concrete right atop the dirt. But not as surprised as I was with the tree trunks supporting the concrete of the second floor until it dried.

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      1. The only other Gringo in my little town just finished building a 1,800-square-foot home. Of course, it isn’t a showplace like your hacienda, but it is pretty nice. His total cost was $40,000 USD ($7,500 for the lot and $32,500 for the structure.) I watched the whole process and was quite impressed with their primitive but ever-so-effective building methods.

        I tried to copy and paste a jpg. image of the house but was unsuccessful.

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      2. A friend of mine, a concrete contractor in Canada, was astounded by that method of construction being used to build a high-rise hotel in Playa del Carmen. On the coast of Mexico, I have seen cobblestones set in mud.

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          1. How true, but in the short term, it looks good, usually that term being the length of time it takes to sell property on that street. When rainy season arrives, things change.

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    1. Jeff: Although YouTube links will put a video in a comment, just doing a normal photo link won’t work. I see you inserted this photo using Dropbox. Didn’t know that was possible. Thanks. I have a Dropbox account, but I’ve never used it.

      Nice house. Needs some landscaping, but I imagine that will come later. Is that a garage under there? Hard to get perspective. Try to build a decent home in the U.S. for $40,000.

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      1. Felipe: I thought I was only copy & pasting the link that is generated at Dropbox. But then the image appeared instead – so a small victory for me.

        The images of the house were taken when it was about 95% complete. The finished project is nicely landscaped with rod iron handrails and fence along the front. Also, big potted plants fill in the space at the bottom of the chain link fence in the front of the house. The space under the front porch is only 5 feet high by maybe 6 feet wide. Not sure what they intend to do with it though.

        I’ve attached links (or maybe the images) to a side and rear view as well.

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        1. Jeff: I’ve been playing with Dropbox for the last hour, and I too can now put photos here. Thanks again.

          So the space is just five feet high at the entrance? Can’t imagine what it’s for. Couldn’t use it for storage due to its being open to the public. You’d get robbed in a New York minute. Nice house if real basic. That water tank on the roof would drive my wife nuts. She would have had a wall surrounding it. I hope they have success with the solar water, something I’ve found to be quite dicey.

          All told, a nice spot for $40,000.

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    2. Jeff: Following your lead, and fiddling with Dropbox, I’m going to try and add a photo here myself. A guy is painting the inside of our front gate today, and I took a shot. It has to do with construction in a very general way, so:

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      1. Felipe: Looks like you figured Dropbox out. We are also using it for videos of our town and uploading them into the Public file for folks to download after we send them the link. Pretty cool, huh?

        I love the colors of your hacienda. Is that a mailbox on the inside of your gate?

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        1. Jeff: Yep, a mailbox. The slot, of course, is outside. I had that installed way back when we moved in but before I realized there is no house-to-house mail delivery to my neighborhood. No matter. It comes in handy now and then.

          I’ve been using Google Drive, and had never noticed a way to do photo links, but due to my fooling around with the two services today, I see the Google Drive does the same thing. But Dropbox does it far more easily.

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  3. I wonder how long it would have taken NOB just to get the approvals in order to do the street makeover, let alone the cost?

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  4. It sure looks like a nice house. I see seven steps and if we assume a riser of 7.5 inches, that would give us 52.5 inches. If we push it to an 8 inch riser, that gives us 56 inches. I don’t think that space is a garage. Maybe there may be some more steps as it turns toward the door?

    I like the chain link fence. It is real hard to graffiti chain link. I hope they build up a berm or pour a concrete barda to keep out dogs and stray kids.

    Sorry about the word “barda,” but I couldn’t think of what it would be in English. Google Translate says it is “Bard.” I never heard that used in that manner.

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    1. Señor Gill: But that opening downstairs looks to be about the same height as the door upstairs, a tad less, which would be high enough for a car easily.

      I’ve never heard the word barda. My translator says it’s a “muro” of stone or brick. I know muro. Of course, something will have to fill that space below the chain link, or it wouldn’t serve any purpose whatsoever.

      I don’t use Google translator. I use Wordreference.com

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  5. We still have a few cobblestone streets in Boston. Repairing them is indeed a big task. In other places we have cobblestones that have merely had asphalt rolled over them. When the asphalt gives way, then we have cobbled ruts. Though labor intensive, what other form of paving can last more than 100 years?

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    DF, México
    Where we’ve just eaten a lovely lunch of tostadas and flautas.

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    1. Kim: Our Mexican cobblestones do not last over a 100 years, especially on a well-traveled route, but they do last a long time. In my book, straight concrete is better.

      In Old San Juan, I recall blue cobblestones that were reportedly first used as ballast on galleons returning empty from Spain. They loaded up the looted goods and left the big blue stones which were used to pave streets. I remember them as more sturdy than what we have here.

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      1. Hola, Felipe! Indeed, I’ve seen the same cobblestones in San Juan. (And heard the same history.) They are beautiful.

        As for durability, Boston cobblestones are granite, and formed into blocks, then placed short face down. That means there’s a good 9-10″ of stone between tires and the substrate. In Mexico, I believe they use mostly unformed or lightly-formed stone which is not as stable. Saludos!

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