On a regular basis we have the opportunity to salvage materials from a home that is scheduled for demolition. We survey the property, determining what items can be reused or re-purposed. We then have the humbling task of tearing it all apart. Once we leave, a demolition crew comes in to finish the job. Quite often as we are tearing out walls and windows, someone will stop by and share with us their memories of the property. Sometimes it is a neighbor stopping out of curiosity. More often, it is a family member that had spent time in the property. They usually hold a sentimental attachment to the fond memories of the property and are often seeking a remnant of their past.
This was the case with a home that we salvaged in Hanceville, Alabama recently. The home, dated around 1907, had seen better days. It was badly weathered and neglected. The tornados that passed through this area in April 2011 did further damage, leaving the home in irreparable condition. As we began our salvage work, we were approached by a lady who told us that the home once belonged to her grandmother. She shared her memories of better times when the house was full of life and asked if she could purchase the front door. The door, decorated with beautiful multi-colored stained glass panels around the window, had already been sold. Knowing the sentimental value the door held to our new friend, we contacted the buyer, asking if she would consider relinquishing the door to the granddaughter. The buyer was very gracious and agreed to pick out a different door for her own home.
When salvaging a home we also, at times, uncover unexpected hidden treasures. Most often these treasures are found behind the mantel. Letters, photographs, coins and cards, typically small items that were once placed on the mantel and somehow found their way behind it, forever trapped. This home was no exception. As we tore out the mantel we discovered an empty space in the wall around the fireplace. It was filled with all sorts of trash. Among the trash and rats nest there was an item that stood out; a child’s shoe. We hurriedly grabbed several items and threw them in the back of the truck. The home was scheduled for demolition so we had a limited amount of time to take what we could and leave. The little girls’s shoe remained in the back of the truck, forgotten, for several days. We remembered the shoe and out of curiosity, took it to the local cobbler who dated the girl’s leather high top from the 1920’s to 30’s. As he explained, these handmade shoes were typically passed down from one child to the next. From the condition of this shoe we can only imagine that it had seen a lot of play on multiple little feet. We had the shoe cleaned, oiled and stuffed. We shared our treasure with the granddaughter who then brought us a picture of her grandmother’s house as well as an old family portrait. Low and behold, there on the back row is a young girl wearing a strangely familiar looking shoe!
We love hearing stories and shared memories which give us a unique glimpse into a home’s history or provenance. We also understand the value, though sometimes only sentimental, that personal artifacts and architectural salvage can hold for a family. We delight in being able to preserve a piece of history and perhaps a memory or two. It gives us another story to tell and we love to tell stories. Stop by our showroom. We will have the shoe on display for a short time. It will then be given to the granddaughter to preserve for future generations.