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. 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.
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.
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.