Chicago: Following the Red Brick Road

Nik Smith, a photo-supply manager, recalls how he once lived overlooking a brick alley near Chicago's downtown Loop. That was before the alley was stolen. "Every three nights or so, somebody would take about 50 bricks," says Smith. "It stopped only when the city paved it over." Each day bricks from abandoned buildings and old alleys in Midwestern cities are pilfered, sold and shipped out of town on boxcars. Ultimately they end up in Sunbelt states, where there is great demand for used brick. "They're advertising homes built with Chicago brick," says John Dean, of Chicago's department of inspectional services....

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