Burgundy bricks to grace new baseball stadium


It's called Camden blend and bears the Calvert label, but it's neither your evening shot of whiskey nor your morning cup of coffee.

This special brew is a brick -- the brick entrusted with giving the $105.4 million Camden Yards baseball stadium its much-touted, old-fashioned feel.

Roland L. "Bud" Slimmer Jr., a retired union bricklayer who worked on Memorial Stadium four decades ago, laid the first three Camden blend bricks on the stadium's west facade yesterday.

Then Mr. Slimmer, 62, passed the trowel to Charles Smith, 51, a Baltimore Masonry Inc. foreman.

Mr. Smith laid on some mortar and three more Camden blends. He will supervise the laying of nearly 557,000 more bricks at the stadium over the next six months.

The job will cost $1.2 million, according to the Maryland Stadium Authority.

"This is probably the most prestigious brick order in the country right now," said George G. Litz, president of L&L; Supply Corp., the Lutherville firm that is providing the bricks. "No major league stadium has been built out of brick since long before I was born."

Cushwa Brick Inc., of Williamsport in Washington County, makes the molded bricks, which carry the firm's Calvert brand name.

Cushwa created the Camden blend especially for the stadium, Mr.Litz said. The goal was to "harmonize" with the turn-of-the-century brick of the adjacent, 1,116-foot-long B&O; warehouse.

To the layman, the Camden blend looks a lot like, well, a red brick.

But Ken Mistovich, L&L; sales manager, said: "It's a 50-50 blend of two shades of off-red."

Mr. Litz said: "To call it red would be redundant, to say the very least. It's sort of a burgundy and salmon blend."

Whatever the color, it's a fine brick in Mr. Slimmer's estimation.

"These Cushwas, they'll look good for years and years and years," he said.

Union workers will earn $18.45 an hour laying the bricks.

"But it's not everything it's trumped up to be," Mr. Smith cautioned. "If it rains, they don't work. If the mortar freezes, they're not going to work."

The stadium's 32 arches will present bricklaying challenges calling for the use of about two dozen different brick shapes, Mr. Smith said.

"If you've got an architect who likes brick work, you've got a friend," he said. "I'm happy they're doing it in brick. It's going to fit right in the area."

Indeed, a wave of red brick has spread west from the Inner Harbor promenade to the Harbor Court hotel and towers through the Otterbein area to Camden Station, the warehouse and now the stadium.

Brick dates to Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon and surely has been around Baltimore nearly that long -- or since the mid-18th century anyway.

Stadium builders expect that when the homey veneer of Camden blend covers the concrete, the stadium will look like Baltimoreans' field of dreams.

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