Tonawanda News

Columns

March 28, 2014

ADAMCZYK: History is made of bricks

Tonawanda News — Your heritage, essentially, is what you drag behind. It’s your birthright, backstory, history, whatever, and bricks are likely as part of it if it includes life here in the Rust Belt. (I’m beginning to feel pride in that term.)

Yeah, we’re made of bricks.

Pittsburgh is a dynamic and forward-facing city which no longer manufactures a bit of steel, but surrounding the city on hills rising high above it are rusting railroad tracks, machinery unused for decades and sitting like sculpture, mountains of piles of whatever steel is, or was, made of.

Detroit these days has a Mad Max vibe to it and abandoned office buildings with holes in their roofs and lustrous green carpeting — no, wait, that’s moss growing on the rugs.

Buffalo and surrounding environs have brick buildings galore, often in the process of repurpose. Whole neighborhoods made of brick await development, redevelopment, gentrification, whatever wand will be waved at then to make them function again. Structures here tend not to be razed; they fall down occasionally but typically simply stand and wait. They’re hard to knock down, anyway, and this is the sort of thing which dazzles the out-of-town architectural tourist and occasional investor.

I have been a regular visitor to Great Britain, a place where Industrial Revolution towns still exist, and hell yeah they’re all made of brick. Brick buildings, brick walls, brick streets; kids growing up in these places must have thought the whole world looks like this, and whoever owned the kilns back then must have made a fortune. Then I’d come home, and while it’s less obvious (largely because we paint our brick and tend to cover our homes with clapboard or siding), my world here is made of brick as well.

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