As Marion’s engineering department plans street repairs throughout the city, the issue of what to do with the eight blocks of bricks in the street around Uptown Marion has been the subject of discussion at several City Council meetings. Badly in need of repair, the streets are difficult to drive on because many of the 100 year old bricks in the streets have buckled and broken.
Marion city engineer Mike Barkalow verified that the bricks were not manufactured here in town — Marion bricks would have been too soft to survive 100 years of the wear and tear of traffic.
Barkalow estimates that about one half to one third of the bricks will be salvageable after being removed from the streets. Between the ones that are already in rough shape and the process of pulling them out of the street bed, no more than four blocks worth of the bricks will survive. Ideas for what to do with the bricks that are salvageable have been tossed around, but a final decision has not been made.
“We are proud of our city’s heritage as the oldest city in Linn County and the fact that it predates the state of Iowa, and Marion takes care to preserve that history,” said mayor Nick AbouAssly. He cited moving the train station to City Square Park; moving the two brick houses from the lot where the new Marion Public Library is being built; maintaining both the Granger House and the McGowan House; and having the Uptown, Terrace Park, and Pucker Street listed on the National Park Service National Register of Historic Places as examples.
“I want to see us preserve our history as much as we can because when it’s gone, it’s gone and we can’t get it back,” Will Brandt, city council member for Ward 3.
One idea was to use the bricks in the new Seventh Avenue that will be done with this summer’s streetscape project. However that concept was quickly discarded when Barkalow estimated it would cost approximately $200,000 per block. Also, the maintenance of the brick streets would be costly.
Another suggestion was to use the bricks to pave one of the streets/blocks in either Terrace Park or Pucker Street. The Historical Preservation Commission has tasked with exploring other options, including funding and will bring back more information to the city council.
“We already have what other cities are trying to create with respect to our heritage. It can be a draw for the economic sector as well as for the tourism, and I think we can find a use for them somehow,” AbouAssaly said.