In St. Louis Even the Old Bricks Are Leaving Town (still)

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The first article was written in 1978, surely not marking the invention, as it is, of brick theft in St. Louis, but perhaps marking a point in time when the issue had reached a level of public awareness as to end up in black and white in the newspaper of record. After 1978, the exodus of people and brick continued. There were approximately 460,000 residents in 1978. There are fewer than 320,000 today. The second article appeared in 2010. What if anything has changed? Where does St. Louis go from here? Two weeks from now, the community is invited to engage in a conversation about vacancy, our community and the future of our city. Open/Closed will feature topics spanning suburban vacancy, historic preservation, institutional responsibility and neighborhood safety, asking what's next? What can our community do so that in 2042 we're not still reading about how St. Louis is being dismantled?

In St Louis Even the Bricks Are Leaving Town – NY Times, 1978

Can You Steal a Whole Building? Thieves Cart Off St. Louis Bricks – NY Times Brick Theft 2010

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    If there is so much worth in many of these bricks, could the city, which owns 8,000 vacant buildings, legally hire the same day labors that are currently being used by the brick thieves to collect brick off of the building that are beyond repair or rehabbing?  Judging from the images in the article above, there are some building that are beyond the ability to rehab and it would seem that the city could get some value by being proactive about recycling the bricks from these buildings.  If it is profitable for people from Florida and Texas to drive up here to steal bricks would it not be profitable for the city to use some of this resource before as Mr. Moore states at the end of the article they are all gone?

     If the government were feeling really creative they could even keep the bricks in the St. Louis region by stockpiling them for use in any new built projects in the area.  Judging from the vast projects that have been proposed in the brick theft heavy North St. Louis, this it would seem that there will soon be a large market for brick there.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I think in the end, there isn’t enough demand in St. Louis to reuse all, or even most of the bricks here. That said, there should be something more than market forces at work when considering our city’s history. Imagine what could be done with $20M dedicated to a brick bank? The idea has been tossed around for the last few years (likely longer), but no one’s made it happen. Instead, local efforts go towards museums, sculpture parks, the Arch grounds, etc. Those may very well be meaningful and important endeavors, but I just wish someone would step up and fund some less sexy, but in the end much more important needs.