I know I said Transformers were up next but since this was uncovered during the recent organizing project and I have plans for using them (I won’t say what in case it doesn’t work) I thought I would take a quick look at this set. Block City was a building block set that was introduced in the 1950s. In my admittedly short research I kept getting told the toyline ended in the 1960s and yet I remember getting these in the 1980s, late 1970s at best. So either my parents gave me one of their old toys for Christmas or they happened to find a store with leftovers.

With the success of LEGO and Lincoln Logs among other building toys a number of toymakers try to come up with their own building block sets. Some of them use licenses, like LEGO and Mega Blocks while other just hope parents won’t know any better or enthusiasts will want to try something new. Block City went through a few different owners in its time. My set was produced by Block City Incorporated out of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. (One of the previous creators also was out of Kentucky.) The original creators appears to be the Tri-State Plastic Molding Company, later distributed by the Chicago-based Plastic Block City Incorporated. The early sets came in tubes and boxes with names like “The New Yorker” and “The Chicagoan” (whether they were named after cities or magazines I wouldn’t know) and later less famous names like “Rolling Hills” and “Suburban”. I used to have a link here to a site that discussed it but it’s gone now and I couldn’t find a replacement. By my time we just get numbers based on how many pieces came with the set, so mine is in a reusable pail simply dubbed “B-680”.

Is this how the Property Brothers got started?

Not that I’ve counted to see if there are 680 pieces. I have more important things to do and considering how many things I lost as a kid I wouldn’t know who to blame anyway. Not that it matters because nobody makes them anymore. It was hard enough finding historical information on the toyline. Here you can see the main pieces. According to the instructions the white blocks (which aren’t as yellowed as they appear in the photo) represent 1/16 to 1 scale cement blocks, the red pieces 1/8 to 1 scale bricks, and the other pieces we’ll see later 1/32 to 1 scale doors and windows. Other sets include garage doors, picket fences, sidewalk pieces, and so on, but not mine.

Supposedly the blocks hold together better than LEGO, or so said the few fansites I could find, but honestly some of them are too tight while others are too loose. The bricks are even less likely to stay together, although putting them in the usual pattern instead of straight up and down may prove more helpful.

A sampling of the various main building pieces.

In addition to block, bricks, and their half-sized kin (to create the usual building pattern…just look at a building or wall not covered in dry wall or shingles and you should understand what I mean) you have four corner lintel pieces for added stability at the corners (but if you want more than one house or a fancy design you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way) and a set of pieces that can go on top of the finished construction, creating a flat top surface many building sets lack by necessity. If you want your building to have a roof you’ll have to build it out of cardboard or something similar. There are no pieces in any set to create a proper roof, and if you want more than one floor inside your building your pretty much out of luck. While I’ve seen fan-made builds that include a fire escape on the outside I haven’t seen any that decorated the inside, or had stairs to another floor. You may also see a set of brick-colored lintel pieces forming archways. That’s for the final set of pieces in this set.

The frames are built into them so they can’t open. There’s also no glass, although some sets had translucent pieces.

To complete your facade you have a set of doors (there are no arches for the “cement blocks”, just the “bricks”), two rectangular and two with an arch. No French doors or anything else, although as I said some sets had a garage door. Due to how they’re designed there are no ways to open the doors or even the windows. Yes, you get small and large windows, the large ones designed to be corner windows. I can’t remember seeing a house with windows like that but if you want big windows that’s your only option. The manual does give tips on creating building types, roofs, and other designs, and all Block City sets were designed to work together. Unlike a lot of today’s options, however, they do not interact with LEGO pieces.

If this doesn’t work as intended I’ll still find other uses for them in displays in the future, but I didn’t play with these much as a kid. They’re designed for serious constructing and I was never into heavy constructing as a kid. You can still find sets floating around eBay and the like but unless you like building scale houses that are not functional beyond looking nice this may not be the set for you.