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283- Dollhouses of St. Louis

2017-11-07 | 🔗

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

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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, turn the
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 The card 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. Yes, 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 They support 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, seemed otherworldly 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,
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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
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.