Boston is noted for its cobblestone streets, but, truth be told, most of them are not really made of cobblestones, at least in the traditional sense. The term “cobblestone” actually derives from the Old English word “cob”, meaning a rounded mass or lump that had to be dug out of Boston’s soil. These cobs were then used as paving materials for streets, leading to uneven surfaces, broken wheels, and, of course, massive complaints. Most of these traditional cobblestones were replaced in the 19th century with ‘”setts”, granite stones that were cut into (more or less) regular shapes and used to make the pavement much more even.
The only place that true cobblestones can still be found is in Beacon Hill. The most well known location is on Acorn Street, which happens to be one of the most photographed parts in the city. But you can also find them in some of the worn-down exposed areas of Louisburg Square and on a few driveways along Mount Vernon Street.Guests staying at Fifteen Beacon or Liberty Hotel can enjoy an easy walk along these historic routes. Just remember to watch your feet!
To find original setts, look in the famous circle that commemorates the Boston Massacre at the intersection of Congress and State Streets, in front of the Old State House. There are also several spots around Faneuil Hall (on Congress Street) and in front of the Paul Revere House’s on North Street. And don’t miss the only remaining street still constructed purely out of setts – the historic Marshall Street by the Union Oyster House.
– Alan Maltzman of BostonCityWalks.com