A city lies atop a bed of this stuff;
it is everywhere, easily uncovered
by scratching the thin layer of top soil.

The city was constructed of this stuff,
mixed and shaped and kilned in reds
and yellows by cheap immigrant hands.

The city is made distinctive by this stuff,
in scrubbed dutch rows and bungalows
squatting in the splendor of solidity.

In the 19th century, skilled immigrant labor from Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe was put to work in the construction business, desperately needed the pressures of commerce and housing in a frontier town exploding in growth. And what better building material than the clay beds that lay in large areas beneath the city? And if you made more than you needed, you had the river and the railroads to ship it where it was needed.

There’s a new documentary about this most mundane building material – “Brick by Chance and Fortune.”

And the blog St. Louis Patina posts daily about architecture in St. Louis – and much of that architecture is brick.

About stlouisisapoem

We live in this poem called St. Louis, a poem we're still writing. It's about history, and art, and politics, and business, buildings and streets, rich and poor, and food (of course), and all of the other things that make this city what it is and what it will become. We publish poems about St. Louis, and you're invited to contribute via the comments to posts (for now, until we get our communications organized). Send us a link or an email address, and we'll respond. Help us write the poem that is St. Louis.
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