The Post answers a question that came to us through Athens Asks, our forum where you ask the questions and we find the answers.

Have you ever witnessed someone struggle to take an Athens brick back to their dorm, or taken one yourself, and wondered: why is this a thing?

Here, we answer a question that came to us through Athens Asks, our forum where you ask the questions and The Post finds the answers: "How did the tradition of stealing Athens bricks begin?" 

Stealing bricks is a tradition that started in the 60s and has remained to this day as a way for graduating seniors to keep a part of Athens with them forever and without cost.

The company responsible for making these infamous bricks, Athens Block, opened in 1893, James Robinson, the current owner of Athens Block, said.

Back then, most roads were made of brick or cobblestone and companies would engrave their logos into the bricks, he said.

“You had all kind of unique logos really, I mean some would just be pictures of ducks or chickens, and Athens Block chose to write Athens for their logo," Robinson said.

Robinson remembers one of his professors at Ohio University, David Clone, telling him the history behind it.

“He told me that it started in the 60s and back then fest (season) was really wild, the 60s in general were a crazy time," Robinson said. "At OU, you had a bunch of broke college kids and a lack of souvenir shops.” 

This combination led to students finding a creative solution to keeping a part of Athens with them: stealing.

Students may not realize, but it is a crime to steal an Athens brick, with the consequence ranging from $1,000 to six months in jail, according to a previous Post report.

According to Athens Police Department Chief Tom Pyle, theft of bricks is not as rampant as people may think.  

“We don’t typically get called to take reports on these thefts because it is some time before anyone notices they are gone from the street," Pyle said. "It doesn’t happen as often as is rumored."

When it does happen, serious consequences follow. The missing brick pieces create a safety hazard for people walking and it makes it difficult for those in wheelchairs to get around, OU Spokeswoman Katie Quaranta said.

“The university strongly discourages students from participating in this tradition," Quaranta said in an email. "Taking bricks is not only theft, but can also create a safety hazard on campus."

Robinson says his company makes souvenirs to discourage this behavior.

“We make creative alternatives, so there isn’t a lot of brick stealing," Robinson said. "I mean it's not as bad these days as it was back then."

Taking an Athens brick is still tradition students are continuing for the experience of it.  

Trianna Connolly, a sophomore studying broadcast journalism, described going to The Ridges with her friends one night to get their Athens bricks.

“It was great. I mean it was scary because it was at The Ridges at night and really dark, but it was worth it,” Connolly said.

Connolly added that she appreciates the tradition.

“It’s like a tradition here that you steal a brick because it’s keeping a part of Athens with you because this place is so big and it’s hard to not love it here and not have a piece of it with you for life,” she said.


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