4 months ago



THE ORIGINAL TUSKEGEE BRICK” Image Credits: National Park Service Ranger Mitchell, Booker T. Washington National Monument, Hardy, VA 31 The brass plate on the brick reads as follows: “This brick is a living testament to the historical role Tuskegee University played as a bastion of self-help and uplift. The following brief description is taken from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, “UP FROM SLAVERY”. In the early days of the school, I think my most trying experience was in the matter of brickmaking. We tried several locations before we opened up a pit that furnished brick clay. After a good deal of effort we moulded about twenty-five thousand bricks, and put them into a kiln to be burned. This kiln turned out to be a failure, because it was not properly constructed or properly burned. We began at once, on a second kiln. This, for some reason, also proved a failure. The failure of this kiln made it still more difficult to get the students to take any part in this work. Several of the teachers, however, who had been trained in the industries at Hampton, volunteered their services, and in some way we succeeded in getting a third kiln ready for burning. The burning of a kiln required about a week. Toward the latter part of the week, when it seemed as if we were going to have a good many thousand bricks in a few hours, in the middle of the night the kiln fell. For the third time we had failed. The failure of this last kiln left me without a single dollar with which to make another experiment. Most of the teachers advised the abandoning of the effort to make bricks. In the midst of my troubles I thought of a watch which had come into my possession years before. I took this watch to the city of Montgomery, which was not far distant, and placed it in a pawnshop. I secured cash upon it to the amount of fifteen dollars, with which to renew the brickmaking experiment. I returned to Tuskegee, and with the help of the fifteen dollars, rallied our rather demoralized and discouraged forces and began a fourth attempt to make bricks. This time, I am glad to say, we were successful. Before I got hold of any money, the time limit on my watch had expired, and I have never seen it since; but I have never regretted the loss of it. BOOKER T. WASHINGTON” THE TIGER & THE TORCH Page | 33

ONE BUILDING REDUCED TO BRICKS The first new building constructed on the Christiansburg Industrial Institute (CII) campus was the Industrial Shop Building (1901) 32 . At CII the students practiced what they learned in class to exemplify leadership among their peers and tradesmen in the area. The shop was actively in use while the school was open; however, upon closure and auction the building went unused for many years. The purchaser of a large portion of the campus later gifted some of it to the Christiansburg Institute Alumni Association (CIAA). To allow for additional land development, this building was moved from its original location to another section of the property owned by CIAA. Due to decades of non-use and because of the move, the building suffered from rapid deterioration and the damage was quite immense. The leadership of CI’s non-profit boards had to make the difficult decision to demolish the building. Only the chimney bricks were salvaged. In 2005 CIAA granted historic easements 33 to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources 34 . This is especially important as Christiansburg, VA, continues to grow and develop. These easements will help preserve the cultural and architectural integrity of the remaining campus structure that is awaiting renovation. Photo Credits: Back View of the Industrial Shop Building (top) and Students Working in the Industrial Shop Building (bottom) from The John F. Banks Papers, Virginia State University Special Collections THE TIGER & THE TORCH Page | 34