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Architectural Salvage

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I don't know about you, but I love exploring scrapyards and salvage yards, and a good architectural salvage yard (or a great one, like Ohmega and sister Omega Too, who sell mostly new items, in Berkeley CA) can provide hours of entertainment. Some places specialize in certain items – doorknobs, mantels, bathroom fixtures, clawfoot tubs, windows – and others sell whatever they can save from the wrecker's ball. These firms are a great and often inexpensive way to find one-of-a-kind items with history and character, and are also a good source of ideas and worth checking out before you begin a remodel project. Outside of the US, the selection is even greater, with companies like the UK's Salvo offering a huge directory of salvaged materials from all over Europe – they even have a big salvage fair every year. Here are a few of my favorites; please feel free to add other resources to the comments below.

  • Bill Raymer's Restoration Resources in Boston's South End has sold interior architecture elements, from mantels to fixtures and windows, since 1988.
  • Springfield's ReStore is another firm in Massachussetts, more interested in reuse as environmental philosophy than necessarily in historical conservation.
  • Massachussetts really does embrace architectural salvage (probably because there's so much good stuff to save)! The Building Materials Resource Center is another Boston materials salvage firm, and operates as a non-profit, marketing specifically to low-income customers by giving them steep discounts.
  • Architectural Salvage is in Exeter NH (an hour outside of Boston), and is open weekends only. The owner, an avid antique collector, left the home building trade after 20 years and opened AS in 1997. Their large inventory includes lots of doors and hardware, with an emphasis on Victoriana and Colonial Revival items.
  • New England Demolition & Salvage is located in Wareham, MA, and carries a large selection of clawfoot tubs, stained glass, radiators, mantels, columns and plenty of other architectural antiques.
  • Architectural Elements in Tulsa OK carries an enormous range of fixtures, hardware and wood and ceramic items.
  • Milwaukee's Salvage Heaven keep lots of built-ins and other items taken from local homes – many of them Craftsman and Prairie – on hand, and have an enormous inventory that includes everything from bricks and wooden flooring to furnaces, boilers, moulding, tin ceiling, baseboards, doors and iron railings.
  • North Shore Architectural Antiques in Two Harbors MN also have a huge stock on-hand, including plenty of tile, ornamental plaster, corbels, stair components and much more.
  • Howard Kaplan Antiques in Manhattan specializes in antique lighting and bath fixtures, including tubs, vanities and sinks; they also carry a large stock of antique furniture and decorative items, and a special exclusive Victorianesque pot rack.
  • Olde Good Things have showrooms in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Scranton PA, as well as an online store. Their firm has grown by leaps and bounds since its initial inception working with New York City demolition contractors. They continue to sell at flea markets and antique sales, as well; you can find them in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena and Alameda, CA, throughout Illinois, Washington DC and Clarendon VA, and all over New York. Their trucks also roam the country, buying and selling all over the place; each truck is a showroom in and of itself - what an operation!
  • Louisiana salvage firm Crescent City Architectural has a good stock of doors, ironwork and windows - plenty of items with that New Orleans style.
  • Seattle's Earthwise maintains an enormous warehouse full of weird bits and pieces, from the antique to the modern, including some nice Povey Brothers stained glass windows, mostly salvaged from local churches.
  • My favorite, Steve Drobinsky's Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley CA, has both indoor and outdoor areas full of hundreds (or thousands?) of doors, windows, pavers and brick, tile, tubs, sinks and toilets, antique European and Asian interior architecture, electrical and gas fixtures of all types, church and movie-theater benches, pews and other sorts of seating, and so much more I can't even begin to list it. They have a cute little movie up on the web which includes a walking tour of their operation.
  • Tony's Architectural Salvage claims to be Southern California's largest architectural salvage effort. Their shop in Old Town Orange is enormous, with an especially large stock of doors, glass, mantels and hardware – check out the mountain of doorknobs!
  • The ReUse People in Alameda CA are both demolition contractors and materials distributors, and maintain a number of warehouses that are open to the public. They do not specialize in antique fixtures, although some gems can be found in their stock; they are more interested in salvage & reuse as part of a larger ecological philosophy.
  • Building REsources in San Francisco's India Basin is a sort of hippy junkyard of a salvage operation, but they do have an excellent stock of bathroom fixtures, tile and other bits and pieces, and you can sometimes find neat stuff hidden behind less beautiful items that fill their lot. The yard is also an ongoing art installation, and neat bits of sculpture litter the space year-round.
  • Also in the Bay Area, Caldwell's carry a pretty wide range of salvaged materials, including quarter-sawn mantels, turn of the century light poles, and elevator doors, all salvaged from old Victorians and commercial buildings in and around San Francisco.
  • Another great Berkeley salvage company is Urban Ore (the city's "major serial material recovery enterprise"), who moved a coupla years ago to a larger space down on Murray Street. They have a very eclectic mix of furniture, fixtures, raw materials, and thrift-store treasures - books and the like (I found a copy of a junior high school yearbook from a school/year I attended, once, signed by childhood friends of mine), although you'll have to be patient to sort the good from the plain.

Photo by our friend Knautia. Please add other resources that you know of to the comments below!

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