MIDDLEPORT — The inaugural brick swap was held in Middleport on Saturday, allowing collectors to “swap” pieces of history from around the region and beyond.
Brick is one of the oldest and most enduring man-made building materials. Sun-dried mud brick, or adobe, appeared about 10,000 years ago, and the earliest kiln-fired or clay-baked brick dates to 3,500 BC. This marked the first time humans were able to construct permanent, fireproof structures without stone.
The first bricks in the English colonies in North America were made in Virginia around 1612. New England saw its first brick kiln erected at Salem, Massachusetts in 1629. The Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam imported yellow bricks from Holland, which imparted a Dutch character to the architecture of the city. The excellent quality and abundance of local clays in the colonies made it unnecessary to import bricks from across the Atlantic. Brick-making centers developed in Albany, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Burlington and Trenton, New Jersey, as well as along the Raritan River.
The paving brick industry flourished in Ohio from the 1880s until the 1930s. The most abundant and important clay beds occurred in the eastern part of Ohio, associated with coal-bearing rocks.
Today, due to the durability of the products, we still see lasting reminders of this industry in the streets and sidewalks of nearly every town or village all over the world, not just the United States.
Many of these late-19th and early 20th-century brick are branded with the name or location of their originating brickyard, or a distinguishing mark. Collecting old branded bricks is a growing hobby. It may seem like a strange hobby, but to find, touch and own a piece of history can be very rewarding and fun.
The IBCA or International Brick Collectors Association is just one organization revolving around collecting bricks all over the world. The members do not buy or sell bricks but rather “swap” bricks with one another. They collect multiple kinds such as building bricks, paving bricks, and firebrick branded with names, designs, patterns, pictures, or numbers but avoid plain bricks (vanillas). Several times during the year they hold “swaps” bringing extra bricks to share with friends. They often dine together while telling about the history and stories of the brickyards and the bricks that were produced.
Brick Swaps are held at various locations around the country. Ohio hosts several “swaps” such as Fairfield, Pataskala, Columbus, and Nelsonville to name just a few.
Most recently the inaugural brick swap was held in Middleport. This was organized by Gary Coleman and Jordan Pickens and hosted by the Middleport Masonic Lodge #363.
There were brick collectors attending from as far away as Virginia, Cleveland, Canton Coshocton, as well as many locals. Tuckerman’s on Lincoln also was on site with coffee and “Middleport Block” t-shirts for sale.
The organizers felt the inaugural Middleport Brick Swap was a success, and have tentatively scheduled the 2020 Middleport Brick Swap for Sept. 5, 2020.
Article and photos submitted by local resident and Middleport native Jennifer Harrison.