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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Family Offers $500 For Return of Filched S.F. Lego Landmarks

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM

click to enlarge Mark Benz' masterful recreation of Ghirardelli Square and other city landmarks were stolen out of his truck last week - COURTESY BENZ FAMILY
  • Courtesy Benz Family
  • Mark Benz' masterful recreation of Ghirardelli Square and other city landmarks were stolen out of his truck last week
Leaving your heart in San Francisco is bad enough -- but when someone out-and-out steals large portions of the city, things have gotten progressively worse.

click to enlarge Mark Benz' Palace of Fine Arts - COURTESY BENZ FAMILY
  • Courtesy Benz Family
  • Mark Benz' Palace of Fine Arts
That's the situation for the Mark and Jannet Benz of Fremont. Mark, a founder of the Bay Area Lego Users Group, is known throughout the realm for his massive plastic-brick recreations of city landmarks (If you guessed Mark Benz is a mechanical engineer by trade -- you were right. Also, it warrants mentioning that the Bay Area Lego Users Group's bylaws are 10 pages long.).

Sadly, following a Lego exhibit at Palo Alto's Museum of American Heritage, the couple last week reported that painstakingly detailed models of Ghirardelli Square, the Palace of Fine Arts, The Maritime Museum, Hyde Street Pier, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the U.S.S. Pampanito were filched from the back of the family's Ford F-150 pickup truck, which was parked in the driveway. Jannet Benz said this is the first burgary of any kind the family has suffered in their neighborhood -- and she's never heard of any other Lego aficionado's masterworks being stolen like this.

Jannet Benz told SF Weekly the family is offering $500 for information leading to the safe return of Mark's models. Just the Lego pieces within the recreations are valued at $6,000 -- to say nothing of the years spent constructing this city menagerie.

click to enlarge This impressive San Francisco grouping was filched in Fremont - COURTESY BENZ FAMILY
  • Courtesy Benz Family
  • This impressive San Francisco grouping was filched in Fremont
Stealing the models out of the pickup truck was likely not a five-minute endeavor. It takes Mark Benz hours to load up the vehicle. Granted, he's moving more slowly than a thief -- but, bottom line, these models are big. The San Francisco scene above is four feet wide and five feet long.

click to enlarge The Maritime Museum - COURTESY BENZ FAMILY
  • Courtesy Benz Family
  • The Maritime Museum
While the above exhibition represents "some of the nicest pieces of Mark's collection," his wife notes that he has built many others that haven't yet been stolen. Most notably, Mark Benz has assembled a 10-foot-long model of the Bay Bridge and a recreation of Mission San Jose. She is unsure if any of the pieces are insured.

"There's a feeling of anger and violation," she says. "It's heartbreaking to see literally years of work vanish."

Anyone with knowledge of the appropriated Legos is urged to call the Fremont police at (510) 790-6900.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more

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