Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 15, 2014

Pieces of history

Old Putnam Stadium bricks are available at no charge

The Independent

ASHLAND — Here’s something to add to your brick collection: one or two bricks from Putnam Stadium. And you can get them at no charge by simply stopping by the open area between the stadium and Joel Street known as the dust bowl.

Demolition workers from Light’s Enterprises are depositing bricks and other debris from the old stadium that served as home of the Ashland Tomcats for 76 years in the large lot, and it did not take long for numerous people with fond memories of the old stadium to begin stopping by for a brick or two.

The original plan was for the Putnam Stadium Restoration Foundation, which raised thousands of dollars through private donations to help the Ashland Board of Education pay for the $1.46 million cost of Phase 1 of the construction of a new stadium, to sell the bricks to genearate funds for more work on the new facility.  After all, while seats for the new stadium will be in place in time for the first home football game this fall, dressing rooms and other improvements will come later as funds become available.

However, plans to sell the bricks from the old stadium were abandoned because of the poor condition of the bricks, said Ashland School Superintendent Steve Gilmore. The stadium was not demolished brick by brick. Instead, a giant jackhammer was used to crush its old walls, which did not result in a neat pile of bricks suitable for prominent display on a coffee table, bookshelf or other place of honor. Instead, most of the bricks are broken or at least chipped, and edged with globs of mortar, Gilmore said.

No effort is being made to clean the bricks or even separate those still molded together. The debris from the demolition also includes shards of concrete, spaghetti tangles of reinforcing steel and splinters from the old wooden bleacher seats where generations of Tomcat fans cheered their team.

However, what seems to have captured the interest of nostalgic fans are the stadium’s bricks. Gilmore said he has been getting calls from souvenir hunters asking about them.

The two major guidelines for the brick giveaway are (1) to stay clear of the demolition site, where heavy equipment is chipping away daily at the stadium, and (2) don’t be greedy. Souvenir hunters wanting a brick or two are welcome, but hoarders are not. District employees are on the lookout for anyone taking excessive amounts.

The district also is keeping some of the bricks for later use in a project to be announced, Gilmore said.

We recognize the bricks from historic structures are not something a lot of people collect, but when the Ashland school district tore down the old Oakview, Charles Russell, Hager and Hatcher schools in the early 1980s, funds were raised by the local PTAs by selling the bricks from the old school. We suspect the same was done for other area schools torn down during the same era.

It’s likely a number of those bricks are still on prominent display in area homes, or at least stored in attics or basements.

We also know local people who have pieces of the Berlin Wall collected by being in the right place at the right time when that wall came tumbling down in October 1990.

When Urban Renewal in Bowling Green purchased and demolished Pauline’s, a infamous house of ill-repute that had openly operated in the city for many years in the late 1960s, bricks from the demolished house immediately went on sale. However, skeptics claimed enough bricks were sold to build a house at least three times larger than the one demolished.

Well, the bricks from Putnam Stadium are genuine. They may not be in perfect condition, but for some of the thousands of local residents who ever played on the Putnam Stadium field or marched in the band at halftime, it is easy to see how even a broken or chipped brick from the old stadium would be something they would treasure.