Back in the 1950s, St. Louis was segregated and The Ville was one of the only African-American neighborhoods in the city. The community was prosperous. Black-owned businesses thrived and the neighborhood was filled with the lovely, ornate brick homes the city has become famous for.
But driving around The Ville today, the neighborhood looks very different. Some buildings are simply rundown or abandoned, but others are missing large chunks entirely. Walls have disappeared. The bricks are gone. "We call them dollhouses," says local Alderman Samuel Moore, "because you can look inside of them."
People have been stealing the bricks.
Dollhouses of St. Louis
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars.
In the early nineties fifties SAM more and his family left rule Arkansas. Look
to start a new life
the planned on moving to Chicago,
we want our way to Chicago would allow world possession and adult spot.
We started off in my brain Davies. Fifty three Dinah flow view it and got
same listen ran out of gas.
Instead of continuing onto Illinois more family,
decided to stay there
in a middle class area called the will back dancing
Who is with segregated in the bill was one of the only african american neighborhoods in the city, but
so. The veil made the best of it lets reporters actor black
businesses thrive in the neighborhood became one of the most prosperous african american communities in the country. Do you mind
If we just raw the windows up just for their recording,
more is dad got a job as a bricklayer and help build some of the beautiful.
Lately. Brick homes in this area is a grey bridge
didn't quite a few jobs around this sound, I see I see some of my days were really
beautiful homes triple break three story
Two story begins ever cos:
a million dollars to duplicated
The driving around the veiled today were more
has lived for almost his entire life and is now the aldermen. The neighbourhood looks very different. We pull up in front of a couple of old houses,
To be honest, look look at that build. Do you see,
Throw it from the street
the buildings facade looks normal. It's a two story:
we're com sitting on a white limestone base, rounded brick arch his friend
first for windows, but here
just around the corner, and you can see that the entire side wall is missing. The bricks are just gone you
see straight into the rooms each with a different wallpaper.
We call him die because even look inside of the sea was
member and a little girl failed to dies, but to find Jane, you can see, in your hand,
a wall in the past
Two years, a city of Saint Louis has lost more than half its population. Vacancy has skyrocketed anville than other neighborhoods. On the north side,
entire neighborhoods here are just green pasture, punctuated by the occasional dilapidated building that slow.
Is surrendering to the landscape around it.
More became, an alderman back in two thousand and seven he started to get calls from his constituents. Complaining about these collapsing buildings
So he set out to discover why they were falling down. You figure
It was probably just because they were so all, but they need
or is it something was strange about these, so called doll houses. They were so
rounded by piles of broken bricks in debris, but something was missing
I often wonder why
Amazon whole bricks. If the buildings
falling down into piles, but there weren't any whole bricks and those piles more new it met. Someone was taking salvage. Bricks are valuable, is a market for them? Just like there's a market for the cap.
Upper to get stripped out of old homes, a pickup truck full of old
can be worth upwards of three hundred dollars, but these bricks.
Weren't being salvage legally or not legal demolition projects, they were deaf break Deaf
theft was happening on a massive scale in more district
Two hundred and forty two empty buildings
and one thousand seven hundred vacant laws
so out of the seventy thousand seven hundred bacon. I guarantee you that one thousand two was stolen,
Despite these being vacant houses, all of this brick theft is a problem. When a buildings bricks get stolen.
Else usually can't be resold.
It also takes money out the pockets of legal demolition workers.
It stalls redevelopment because he can't sell a building when he came.
Guarantee that it be there next week, but there
also something intangible that's lost with brick theft.
The bill has been home to famous African Americans like Chuck, bury Tina Turner and the opera singer, Grace Bunbury
I remember that Grace Banbury House, not us who stole
Let us call em all Wagner building, but a lot of our history was taken away.
Stole as well? Brig
as has been going on all across Saint Louis, since at least the nineteen seventies whole buildings whole blocks, whole parts of neighborhoods, being stolen, carted off illegally and so
how and where in the United States, can somebody steal a whole building
saint loses history with brig starts back in eighteen, forty, nine, when a boat for
on the river front jumped into the city.
Hundreds of wooden buildings along the river burned to the ground, the fire
devastation where the city government, to order that all new buildings be constructed with fireproof materials. Luckily
did. He happened to be sitting on top of a lot of high quality clay as well.
The call that would be needed to fire the kilns to turn that clay into brick working
these refunds Gregson. One thing that I think is interesting and Andrew, while as executive
Rector of the Landmarks Association of Saint Louis, behind his desk he's got a giant frame
Torreon map of the city back in the late eighteen, hundreds, the landscape is due
I did with evidence of the city's once thriving brick industry its cause
with mines and smokestacks, you'll see some smokes.
Action you see, you know some sort of Derek
set up a winches set up over over mines, some pit minds,
He also cities beehive kilns. They look like big igloos, the Red Clayton
tree was so big that folks were even digging mines in their backyard to get the stuff.
And all his new industry attracted others to Saint Louis.
Decades to come waves,
migrants from across Europe and the Southern: U S flocked the city, it was a boom town, so it sort of a perfect storm.
Of materials, labour and
industrial innovation that combines two to make similar listened in his breath. Producing power
one thousand, eight. Ninety St Louis,
to the world's largest brick manufacturing company, millions of bricks, were exported across the country to build skyscrapers
Chicago and other buildings across the western in southern United States. Bricks were cheap and plentiful in that meant that even
modest working class homes, and Saint Louis could have one
What kind brickwork cannot just blank facade?
They have the sort of core Boeing, extensions or recesses,
and ornamental bricks built into them pressed flower.
Where is your designs and string courses, and things like that, but
as these beautiful brick homes were going up all across the city, the conditions,
the cities, eventual semi abandonment were also being put into.
in the early nineteen hundred saint Louis was forcing its black citizens to live in segregated neighborhoods. When the practice was found. Unconstitutional realtors began, asking homeowners in Saint Louis to sign something called Ray
restrictive, Dade, covenants, these barred, the homeowner and future homeowners from signing the property to african Americans and other minority groups here,
calling Gordon history, professor at the first. If I were when real terse assessed properties for sale in Saint Louis in a well into the nineteen, sixty is one of the standard items on the assessment form was the nearest negro community or the degree to which negroes head invaded or entreated upon a neighborhood
and his invasion, aware that that was used in his document area that these these were the words that were used, intrusion, invasion and the like.
Not only were African Americans blocked from certain neighborhoods by these racist deed covenants. The city was also bulldozing black neighborhoods for Mass
of new projects like the gateway arch. This was the age
of urban renewal. Increasingly,
We are seeing large scale demolition as the first step and building modern cities in this jet age
move fast faster, indeed than we sometimes realise at our peril.
Russia is certain to be studied. As we clear,
where the structures that block progress,
in the ninety fifties, white residents had started to leave the city entirely. The departure was
so agitated by the recent development of the highway system and by the G Ivo, which gave white veterans easy access to home loans, while large
B, twenty black veterans, the same right, white flight was happening. All
The country in Saint Louis was no exception.
This rushed to the suburbs. The city's population decline and its tax revenues plummeted. By then
in seventies. African America
with the means started moving out of the city to we.
Just over a half a million people in the city since nineteen fifty. So we have a huge problem with Vacancy Andrews.
Again from the landmarks Association and
the same time,
Goods that are vacant were
a lot of incredibly high quality materials,
Lee durable materials, mostly brick, that's being so
in Saint Louis meal hundred one hundred twenty years old, suits it's really at the beginning of its lifespan. Bricks can last for hundreds of years before,
from decades of racist housing policies and disinvestment in the north side has created communities with a
bricks themselves are worth more than the home
The only reason these buildings can be stolen is because they are perceived to have no value, so
the building is to have no value, and there are eyes watching it. It's a perfect opportunity for it to disappear
But the time same, more had become aldermen in two thousand seven brick that had
We ve been going on for decades, but there happen
much of an effort by the city to stop at some more.
To figure out who was dealing bricks and how to start
he did what any gum she would do. He went
Some stake out about why some steal a breaks and follow them to the break. Your? What a Solomon wonder? Why
what city that any illegal
position like that business by these brick thieves,
found that abandoned houses represent remarkably easy targets, so easy
but sometimes people are coming in from as far away as LAS Vegas to steal. Them is not actually
I declare the buildings down.
People go about it in a few different wings, Sir
get up at six o clock in the morning
and get on a bicycle and take a screwdriver picking out
sixty seven breaks out wall,
that's that's all it takes to make a hole.
Slight a metal pipe in the whole attached to a chain give yourself enough clearance and Paul instant demolition
the thieves had figured out how to steal bricks, even in busy areas they just take out the backlog of the house. Hidden,
This is a busy streets, so what they did was it
back out of this one but see you re right,
literally like the whole building is the
The building is gone and there's a tree. That's grown up in it. For you
the whole buildings. It's just there's nothing there in the back there.
This way the steel and entire wall Abrek some people run
cable through one window and out another and attached to a truck and Paul, or they use back that
contracted for other legal demolition jobs.
It will drive him over in the night now
down and abandoned house, and then
turn later to steal the bricks.
One of the more drastic methods of stealing bricks, involve
burning the buildings first, the virus
where's. The wooden supports, holding up the building and weakens the mortar between the bricks
My department, which arrived put out the fire, their high pressure hoses off,
knocked down the walls and even clean the mortar off the bricks, Michael
preservation is too used to live in, nor Saint Louis back in two thousand eight, when breakfast was at its worst
dozens of buildings, were being stolen each month. My personal work will someday.
We boarded up buildings that were imported. We were waiting
the city we
nailed, shut the doors to keep people out of them from signing the fires inside.
Austria then like spilling on fire.
Didn't seem real driving out to go.
Groceries passed like spilling them than stolen,
stealing the buildings is back breaking work and it can be dangerous,
Campbelltown. We found people
sat down in a rubber google com.
Call them Kyoto
eventually, Alderman more got set up with sitting in his car and watching all this happened to his neighborhood? So he started to confront the fees when he would find them
Advise us not run a bottom. More eventually realized his interventions. Weren't make
it is to run a bomb. People's last took
Let us not run a bottom more
eventually realized his interventions, weren't, making much indifference anyway. Brick theft is classified
as a nuisance. Crime kind of, like breaking
knows in an old building a curious
on five hundred dollar fine, and up to now
days in jail and given the amount of money that can be made, selling stolen, Breck Alot of people figure. It's a risk worth taking
to me, what makes used brick so special undesirable is the color. This is Barbara Buck. She
century used, brick, it's a brick yard in Saint Louis and so on.
They tear the building down. You'll, get like this mix of colours of oranges and reds, and it's really hard. It's been really hard
new brick manufacturers to duplicate that book says Herbert.
Yard is scrupulous about only buying legally salvage Breck, they typically by from just a handful of trusted vendors,
because we're legal, we have to know exactly where it comes from. So if we don't, we don't usually have
we'll showing up at our yard, with just a pal you're trying to sell a pallet but book
There are other brick buyers than aren't as careful as she is.
There was a guy in Saint Louis that people were. He was buying brick,
You know after hours,
one in the morning you could get a shopping guard. Philippeville brick go.
Money and go by your drugs and
he was doing a huge business and then the police
shut him down. Buck explained to me that this
ply of legally salvaged bricks is driven me,
We buy city funded demolitions
So when the city runs out of money to tear down or buildings more brick yards,
willing to turn a blind eye to break acquired illegally, and so that's when it gets. You know
tempting to for these guys to steal brick and sell it, because they know
There's a lot of demand and no supply some of the brick.
There s weekly, salvaged or not goes to build.
In or run of any new homes and Saint Louis, but most of it heads to another part.
The country entirely
David said most of it goes to Louisiana and we
someone Florida we sell some in Mississippi. We sell in Texas, so there's
you know southern markets that really love our brick
three years. I have been doing this as I was eighteen.
And I have seen and heard just about anything you can think of the brig business, so very much
on all owns Mcconnell Brick in battle originally Vienna and
he's been buying salvage break for decades. When demand.
It was at its highest. He was getting box cars bull of
he's brick from Saint Louis New Break. My
tell for three hundred three hundred fifty dollars per thousand old brake on either hand we'll go for almost two times
for example, we sell Saint Louis Break for six. Seventy five thousand. There are few
reasons why there is such a high demand for salvaged bricks in the southern United States, where Mcconnell from for one thing in the nineties,
season seventies as
neighborhoods in Saint Louis were starting to hollow out a new
who style of architecture in the south was creating a market for used brick. We had an Orkut
again in Louisiana name a haze town and he was the first.
Person that I know of- and I was of a kid back then, but he started
designing houses using salvage material town.
Influenced by Anti Bellum southern architecture portion
we're down south. We have plantation homes,
all those old, o plantation, mansions and stuff, the brick or
actually made on site by enslaved,
living on the plantation, and they would make the break in
but I'm all these houses so where Mr Town, his his reputation in his flyer, was to replicate some of these old plantation homes,
So the only way that you could do that was to use antique brick
turns designs called for used, brick, not just for the facade of homes, but for the flooring, courtyard, patios and pool decks even today.
Some neighbourhoods and banners require all new construction to use. Reclaimed. Brick demand
That weathered look has gotten so high that only the well
just homeowners can afford to have salvage brick very expecting d have salvage brick or you know
brick floors or pond beans or pine floor and any kind of antics,
I will stop there expecting to see that in the
this operation, houses aside,
and this desire for an antique look there's. Another reason why so much use brick from Saint Louis is headed to the Gulf Coast and out West is because not all bricks are created. Equal
the exterior layer of brick, the Facebook produced in Saint
This is fired in such a way that it helps it withstand the freezing winters in the MID West Interior break is softer and can't stand up to the elements.
In nineteen sixty and seventy Saint Louis Home builders in the suburbs who started using reclaim break from the city got a nasty surprise, the brick facades,
we're crumbling away. If you're gonna put you,
to break on a new home. There has to be some
The demolition thing separating out the face, brick from the Interior down
That's something demolition companies can't or won't pay for
is this thing for them to do is just ship all of the breaks down to warmer
in its even the softer ones can be used on the exterior of buildings.
To me there's something sad about the beautiful old houses on Saint Louis, being torn down to build beautiful old, looking houses somewhere else or Roebuck who run
Saint Louis Brick Yard agrees. You know there.
Just times when I go to a building than I know is coming down, and I just feel so sad because I think about this
Emily ACT very sentimental. I think about the family that live there. I think about
family. They built that house. I think about the generations that were raised in that house, which
Also, practical many houses can't
maybe shouldn't be saved. We don't have
the population. We don't have the jobs to support those houses and everything as a life span, the worst of the brig theft. Is
for today. Some of the figures that had a history of buying stolen bricks we're
down with the help of city workers, local activists and representative.
Like Ottoman, Saint Maur Brick
urgent, Saint Louis, are now required to vote
graph. Whoever sells them Breck along
with the demolition permit for that job. Now, the queen
is how to reinvent what's left behind
you don't I'm work a brick interview,
Do you know my second avail? More
show me some of the things they are doing with the vacant lots in the neighbourhood. We pull up next to a fence decorated with life's
eyes, portraits of old Negro League baseball players from the nineteen thirties behind the fence is one of moors projects in urban farm
this is called the veal are today who got about fifty fruit trees and it will go into Lapierre fish tank
At first, we gotta Hadrian, now again chickens got the works
And there's new housing being built in the veil to but not the same,
end of stately homes that the neighbourhood used to be known. For.
Take me and now the bottom: oh, how low again so.
We want makes use- and I think that is a good thing that has enabled
more shows me some of the new houses, a traditional brick
Only in this neighborhood would have been made with walls that were three bricks deep from the street. The new
This is the kind of like the old ones, but of close, you can
that there's something different.
It's not a whole break.
Clever, on gadgets, isn't
as a flat services above three quarters is dig
it's a veneer of break the clip on bread.
Works just like, citing on a house,
it's a slice of used or manufactured brick attached to the wooden frame of the building, to give it that look of a brake on these homes with their brick veneer, are
our cheaper to build and will likely be the new phase of the will
they're, not as ornate the old turn of the century houses that used to define this neighbourhood, but there
what gets more people to move and to lower the bay.
You re an that's. What counts?
better to have a neighborhood full of life. Even if the break is fake and replaces doll houses with real houses,
A lot of cities were ravaged by fire in the mid nineteenth century. Saint Louis reacted by building everything with brick, but when San Francisco burned down, it use brick and another novel way,
We have a cool extra story about that. After this, we often don't think of winter is a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website, because recoup dob you thinkin about being productive and now square space can help you do it with squares basic into your cool ideas. You ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website, and just a few clicks does, because there is to use templates, are created by war,
classed as honours, and then you have the ability to customize the look and feel in the different settings for your own needs. For example, my side, roman Mars, dot com I made with square space. The landing page features a close up meeting into a microphone such as mine, my very handsome beard, but if I should ever shave it, I dont have to wait for my web guy to change the photo. I can do it myself and maybe the next vote. I will feature my soulful eyes and where the pages are also picked out some. Why favorite episodes of ninety nine percent of visible to share in the audio is convening.
We in bed it even on mobile? Try yourself could scarce based outcomes, thus invisible for a free trial and when you re the launch, easy overcoat, invisible to save ten percent off your first purchase of a website or domain.
Ninety nine percent of is supported by better help online counselling. I'm sure you like me know a lot of people and counselling or are in need of counselling or maybe even counselling yourself and one of the biggest challenges
I am not being able to carve out even an hour a week to deal with challenges like stress sleep, grief and relationships with better help. You can connect privately with a councillor through phone and video horse or even text in Chad. Better help offers licence councillors who specialise in issues including depression or anxiety, get help on your own time,
your own pace and at an affordable rate. Ninety nine percent, invisible listeners we'll get ten percent of their first month with discount code, invisible, that's better help, dot, com, slash invisible! Why not get help better help, dot com, slash invisible! Your local police probably receive a hundred calls a night from burglar alarms and majority the time they have no idea of their false alarms or if they are real, it could be a crime or it could be. You going downstairs for a midnight snack and setting off the motion sensor, but simply safe home security is different. If there's a break in simply save, has real video to tell please whether there is an actual crime and then they have the evidence to back it up, and they can tell them where the intruder is an what they're doing, and that means please dispatch up to three.
In fifty percent faster than for other burglar alarms. You can set it up yourself with no tools needed or they can do it for you and has only fifty cents. A day would know contracts visit, simply saved outcomes. Last nine nine you'll get free shipping in a sixty day risk free trial. You got another, lose go now and be sure to go to simply say that complex nine nine. So they know that our show is at you that simply saved outcome. Slash nine nine.
So a lot of other cities were altered by fires. The men eating hundreds just like Saint Louis and eighteen,
the great, with a very dangerous time in San Francisco, for example, in regards to fire people came out, the gold rush lived wherever they could and would shacks tents and even on wooden boats in the shadows of the bay it was a disaster will happen and recalls that is here and city with me now to talk about how buyer shaped same Francisco's, architecture and infrastructure in eighteen, forty, nine, the senior that Saint Louis suffered from a severe fire that ultimately turned them towards
Fireproof Brick San Francisco was also hit by the first of a series of seven fires. In two years later, one of these destroyed an estimated two thousand buildings money to pout three quarters of the city at the time and, as you know, the reason why there is a phoenix on the flag of San Francisco is because all these fires of eighteen, thirty one fact but
wanna things very clear is that seems just go, did not go the round of Saint Louis. There are not a lot of brick buildings in response to the fires of the eighteen fifties. Right so brick was expense it out in the bay and the climate doesn't really require the insulation or benefit from the thermal mass. That brick provides. So a lot of the sea was actually rebuilt using wood, but they did widen city streets to slow the spread of flames and they funded better equipped firefighting forces city even imposed a range of fines for any citizen who stood by and didn't helped put out future fires, so big, basically
conscripted. Regulars isn t be involuntary firefighters, yeah yeah, I dont know if that would find a day and these fires. They also lead to the creation of this underground system being system around the city which provided water reserves or firefighters. So they could tat the water closer to ablaze, but the importance of these would actually be realised until about half century later you mean for the big San Francisco, earthquake of nineteen o six, exactly water mains broke, rubble prevented firefighters from reaching parts of the city, the fires of burning for days and thousands of lives were lost and most of the city was destroyed. But in the aftermath San Francisco set about expanding its auxiliary water supply.
System, with reservoirs publications, fire boats and were earthquake, proof cisterns using concrete and steal all which were designed to help in emergencies when conventional water systems fail. Those also like Brigitte solutions, but it doesn't sound like building with wood, was
good idea, still her hull, it was that it wasn't. I mean masonry is better for fires, but it's not as great an earthquake right brain but already said bricks did
the role of play walking around the city of the day. You can spot where the city cisterns are because their marked out on the surface, with big circles of bricks, unsafe, Cisco streets, so the bricks aren't actually part of the cistern, but they do indicate where the cistern is an visitors in new residents always ask about. These are huge mystery. What are those circle outlines that they there almost as big as a city streets actually yeah? They stretch basically from sidewalks,
sidewalk and they hit that something much larger below. Ultimately, the aid visibility, making cisterns easier, despite the crisis in the Middle EAST
because these low manhole covers that provide the actual access to the cistern beings by around the city. These may reservoirs can function independently if quick damage cuts off one area from another and in total there about one hundred and seventy of these spread around and they have a combined capacity of around ten million gallons muslim is really is, and so, if you're walking through San Francisco, you should really look for them, because their quite cool right and actually wrote an article titled decoding rings and our website, which talks more about the history, has images and videos. But, most importantly, it has a map. So you can actually hunt these down yourself. If you want to,
nice and that website is nine p. I that orgy thanks ninety nine presentable with places we buy Zack dire, edited
I believe me home, mix intact production by refusing
music by Sharia. Katy mingle is our senior producer. Kurt close tat is the digital director running the team, the average government and Fitzgerald Terran Massive and me roman Mars.
We are project of ninety one point: seven k: L W in San Francisco produced on radio run in beautiful, downtown oakland. California,
ninety nine percent of visible as member of Radio Tokyo from PR acts and independent collective of the most innovative shows in upon casting find them all net radio, Tokyo, DOT, FM,
We supported by the night foundation and listener donors who pitch in whatever they can to keep his honest and keep us working hard.
You can run the show in discussions about the show on Facebook and Twitter me at Roman moors and the show at many nine p I org, or an incident
tumblr and ready to give your thinking
I need more, no, nine p, I my life. While we have all the old episodes
valuable and new articles about design every couple of days on our beautiful website. It's at ninety nine p, I dot org
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.