Antique features lend character and individuality to the newest of homes and may harken back to our region’s history. Often a particular historical element, such as a salvaged door or window, lends an extra dash of personality to the home as well.
“Very true,” declares Virginia Gardner, a REALTOR® with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. in Charlottesville. “One of the things that I have found in my real estate business is there were a lot of these subdivisions that are basically so similar. Now we are seeing more of the Arts and Crafts look. What this tells us is that people want character.”
She points out that people can add that character to their homes by seeking out salvaged older items, for example, a handsome old door. “They can replace their plain door with something that has that real character.”
During new construction or remodeling, incorporating antique architectural elements can punctuate the finished product with a unique flair. Gardner cites the example of an addition being built on an old home. “The owner went out and found salvaged windows that duplicated the gorgeous long windows in the original construction. This maintained the architectural integrity of the addition that feels like it could have been built when the house was built.”
Such historical echoes bring the atmosphere of a much less complicated time into the home like an anchor to the past.
This idea of tying to the past was important to Judy Johnson—former manager of Charlottesville’s City Market—when she built a “cottage” in Woolen Mills.
“I’d always envisioned building a house,” says Johnson who had an uncle who worked on houses. “He would bring things home from places being renovated and they would re-appear in the house he was developing.”
She wanted to similarly “rebirth” items as a way to tie the cottage to the past and collected used interior doors and cabinetry from various sources to create a brand-new “old” cottage with beautifully framed salvaged windows, a claw-foot bathtub, and an old one-piece porcelain drain board and kitchen sink among other repurposed items.
“I wonder about the people who washed dishes in this sink and looked out these windows,” she says.
Finding the right things takes time, cautions Johnson who spent months trolling for what she wanted. “You can’t just walk into a place and expect to find exactly what you want in one day.”
Where can I Find Historical Features?
Johnson is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, so she naturally headed for the Habitat Store in Charlottesville and similar stores in Richmond, Staunton, and Lynchburg. These stores are retail outlets selling quality used and surplus building materials ranging from old cabinetry to new flooring. Materials are usually donated by building supply stores, contractors, demolition crews, and individuals who wish to support their local Habitat.
Johnson frequently ranged beyond Charlottesville as well. In Richmond, she often browsed at S. B. Cox Demolition which has salvage items including significant architectural details such as old doors and windows, mantles, iron work, and more. Also in Richmond, Caravati’s Architectural Salvage has a diverse collection of items such as old hardware, cabinets, old brick and stone, doors, stained glass, and plumbing fixtures. In fact, Caravati’s is where Johnson found her cottage’s sink and claw-foot bathtub.
Mechanicsville, east of Richmond, is home to Governor’s Antiques and Architectural Salvage, which boasts 45,000 square feet of display space with items from columns to doors, reclaimed lumber and flooring, statuary, wrought iron features, tubs, lighting fixtures and more.
In Orange, Salvagewrights, Ltd. specializes in “architectural antiquities” and the dismantling, moving, and reconstruction of pre-Civil War structures. Their inventory includes a variety of hardware, timber, hand-hewn beams, light fixtures and more.
Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke stocks its 40,000 square feet with an eclectic collection of Old World iron, works by local and regional artisans, garden statuary, vintage doors, staircases, windows and much more. In fact, they even have an eBay store.
Maggie’s Farm in Front Royal is another place to find architectural punctuation for the home with doors, shutters, tin, staircases, and plumbing items. Most items in stock can be viewed on the website which is a bonus feature.
All these places have websites with location, hours, and a general listing of available stock. All items may not be pictured, but you can get a good sense of the items offered.
There can be a wide range of prices for similar items, and salvaged articles are not necessarily inexpensive, but the charm and individuality they bring into the home can be just about priceless.
Marilyn Pribus and her husband once replaced an undistinguished mantle with a large weathered driftwood beam (complete with barnacles) they towed home behind their boat when they lived on the Poquoson River in Virginia’s tidewater region.