Neighbors work to preserve Detroit history brick by brick

Rebricking would cost an estimated $2 million

On the eastside of Detroit, volunteers are removing 200 thousand pounds of historic brick by hand. Those bricks will be used to help fix and preserve Virginia Park Street in Detroit -- One of the city's last brick-paved roads.

DETROIT – Volunteers are removing 200,000 pounds of historic brick on Detroit’s east side by hand.

Those bricks will be used to help fix and preserve Virginia Park Street, one of the city’s last brick-paved roads.

The bricks aren’t just 1,904-made pavers.

“This is our history,” said Jane Rohloff. “It’s all history, from where they came to who set them.”

But removing 200,000 pounds of them isn’t easy.

“This is hard work, and I’m glad the sun has gone down,” said Tony

It’s required for ITC holdings and DTE energy’s new substation on Detroit’s east side, and conviently enough, it matches the same brick here On Virginia Park Street.

Then someone in the neighborhood came up with an idea.

“She said that DTE and ITC might be willing to donate the bricks to us and give us a chance to take these bricks rather than put them in a landfill,” said Steve Waldrop.

Virginia Park neighbors and volunteers are doing the heavy lifting.

“I think it’s quicker for me to throw them out and stick them on the pallet,” Tony said.

But it’s with the purpose.

“There’s three streets on Virginia Park between Woodward and the Lodge Freeway, and we’re hoping to rebrick those streets and reuse these to replace the broken ones,” Waldrop said.

Because they understand a brick-paved road says a lot about a neighborhood.

“I think it gives it a lot of character,” Tony said.

And character is something Virginia Park Street has a lot of.

“The block I live on was bricked in 1894, which is two years before Henry Ford was driving his automobile on the streets of Detroit,” Waldrop said. “It was designed for wagons and bicycles,

Residents say the bricks need saving.

“All the houses on the street are very well maintained, and to keep the current preservation of the brick, I think it would keep the character,” Tony said.

The rebricking of this street would cost an estimated $2 million, and residents are hoping they can get a state grant to help.

Neighbors hope with funding they can start Rebricking in the next year.

About the Authors:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.