1919 Montgomery Avenue. Half the western sidewall is gone. Owner: Land Reutilization Authority.

Brick rustlers destroying 1937 Montgomery - May 6, 2007. Owner: N & G Ventures LC, a Blairmont shell company.

The smashed rear elevation of 1915 Montgomery. Owner: N & G Ventures LC, a Blairmont shell company.

The rear of 1937 and 1939 Montgomery. The destruction began in the back, free from most prying eyes.

Built St. Louis: Crumbling Landmarks
Brick theft, north City

In years of wandering about northern St. Louis, I've seen a sobering amount of devastation. Buildings rot, collapse, burn -- all hallmarks of neglect.

Not till recently did I realize that, in fact, many of those buildings are now under deliberate attack.

Brick harvesting is nothing new to St. Louis; pallets of brick are common on the site of decayed buildings undergoing demolition. They're shipped off to be used in new construction. But now, the practice has taken an ominous and illegal twist: the destruction of buildings soley for their brick.

The problem came to my prominent attention in May 2007, when brick thieves began destroying the last three buildings on my thesis site, the 1900 block of Montgomery Avenue in St. Louis Place. The photos at top show the block under attack by brick rustlers, and the devastation left in their wake.

Note the man in the white shirt -- he's chiseling out an opening in the bottom of the sidewall. That wall will come tumbling down after a bit more of this, and the rustlers will simply walk out and pick up the bricks.

2539 Warren Street, east of Parnell. From maps.live.com, an aerial shot shows the house while still intact. March 2007. Owner: N & G Ventures LC, a Blairmont shell company.

2537 North Market Street, east of Parnell. July 2006. Owner: VHS Partners LLC, a Blairmont shell company.

2318 Dodier, March 2007. Owner: MLK 3000 LLC, a Blairmont shell company.

2858 St. Louis Avenue, at Glasgow -- the front elevation...

...and the back. May 2007. Owner: VHS Partners LLC, a Blairmont shell company.

2842-2844 St. Louis Avenue, east of Glasgow -- from the street...

...and from the alley. May 2007. Owner: MLK 3000 LLC, a Blairmont shell company.

1428 Hills Terrace, south of King Drive, northwest city, July 2006. The building, a small cottage typical of the Ville, was torn down later that year. Privately owned.

4235-4237 Evans Avenue, south of King Drive, northwest city, September 2006. Owner: Land Reutilization Authority.

Not Just An Isolated Occurance
Seeing the astonishing events on the 1900 block of Montgomery, I had a sudden realization. The most bizarrely and completely devastated buildings I'd seen in the last year... they had not collapsed.

They had been harvested.

Attacked, their skins brutally ripped off, their corpses left to rot and collapse in the weather, these buildings were deliberately transformed from grace, history and urbanity to dangerous eyesores. Many linger for months before the remains are finally torn down.

There is an uncanny correlation between brick rustling and ownership by Blairmont Associates, LLC and its various sister shell companies. Attacks often follow within a year or less of purchase by Blairmont, and Blairmont properties are singled out for attack on blocks with multiple vacancies.

Dozens of Blairmont properties can be seen on the Built St. Louis web log series A Daily Dose of Blairmont, including many more brick rustling victims.

2312 Dodier, March 2007. Owner: Land Reutilization Authority.

More on brick rustling in north St. Louis:
- The Public Defender reports on a local alderman's "brick bill" requiring a license to harvest brick.
- Ecology of Abence reports on the related issues of tenant eviction and property destruction by Blairmont.

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