Friday, August 27, 2004

Nothing's too humble to collect - even bricks

Ohio man's array tells of industrial past

The Associated Press

WAITE HILL, Ohio - William Hachtel's collection of bricks tells the story of Ohio's industrial past.

Hachtel, 75, collects bricks manufactured by companies across the country, but mainly from Ohio. In 30 years he has amassed more than 1,000 bricks, each a solitary representative of a long-gone and forgotten company.

Hachtel, of Waite Hill in Lake County, would like to have a sample from every brick company in Ohio. It's a daunting task. In the past 200 years, there have been more than 2,300 brickmakers in the state, more than 200 of them in Cleveland.

The Camp Brick Co. of Mogadore; the Vitrified Shale Buckeye Brick Co. of Cleveland; the Farr, the Gynn and Barwill brick companies, all from Cleveland; the Nelsonville, Penfield and Collinwood brick companies have all faded into history or been bought up by larger companies.

Each has a place in Hachtel's collection.

He carefully displays the bricks in niches in his private museum. Each one has a story to go along with it, which he loves to tell.

One of his favorites is a brick that has the engraved warning: "Don't spit on the sidewalk."

He said a doctor from Cincinnati moved west in the 1800s and persuaded the legislators in a western state to outlaw spitting on the sidewalk because of the diseases it spread. These bricks were made to drive the message home.

Though some bricks are rare, even unique, the 1,000-member International Brick Collectors Association has taken steps to ensure that brick collecting remains a hobby fueled by love, not money.

"We are forbidden to buy or sell our bricks," Hachtel said. "We meet at conventions and trade them. That way, the hobby will not turn expensive."

Besides bricks, Hachtel has collected other items since he retired in 1998 as president of the Wahl Rigging Corp., his family's business.

Outbuildings on his five acres are filled with turn-of-the-century scooters and bicycles, lanterns, license plates, ceramic jugs, ceramic blocks, electrical insulators and antique cars all neatly categorized or stacked in order.

The woods on his property shelter metallic souvenirs of long-forgotten factories, bridges and buildings, such as an iron column from a former Greyhound Bus terminal.

His latest fascination is collecting Roman Empire-era bricks from countries he visited in Europe. He said he shows his collections to friends and family members but does not open them to the public.

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