Cobblestone surfaces still adorn Chalmers Street, Maiden Lane, South and North Adgers Wharf, Gillon Street, and parts of Philadelphia Alley. As recently as the late 19th century, there were more than 10 miles of Charlestson street surface made from these hard, rounded stones. Cobblestones get their name from the old English word "cob", which means "lump", and the a mass  of these lumpy stones was a cheap method of providing ballast for sailing ships during the colonial period. Piles of cobblestones placed in the ship's hull guaranteed it wouldn't capsize in heavy winds, but also subtracted from the amount of cargo that could be hauled. 

  Enterprising sea captains visiting colonial Charleston realized that the rich exports of rice, indigo and timber could be used to replace the weight of the ballast stones, thus Charleston eneded up with cobblestones dumped along its waterfront piers. Here on a peninsula that was interlaced with marshes and mud flats, Charleston was happy to receive these non-native stones to use for landfill, and tons were carted around the city to create more solid surfaces.

 By the 1730's, the city was actively trading for ballast by offering ships freedom from taxes on goods in return for piles of cobblestones. Streets which once were muddy or paved in mushy layers of sand suddenly became firmer afoot with the new patina of hard stone.

  Bricks, cut granite blocks, and finally asphalt spelled the end for most our cobblestone thorouhfares by the early 20th century, although a few still remain to show what a rough ride Charleston was long ago.  

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