Philadelphia Salvage Company Reclaiming Philadelphia's History | Architectural Salvage, Refinishing and Restoration Services Sun, 16 Mar 2014 20:20:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Saving St. Hedwig, again… Sat, 15 Mar 2014 14:56:55 +0000 A little Polish lady called me one day looking for help. She needed some help moving. I heard her, but not really, I was hungry and tired. “No, you don’t understand!” she said. “I need help to move St. Hedwig”. “I don’t understand? That church was taken down in 2007.” After catching up with her, I realized it was the actual St. Hedwig, the statue. Standing about 8ft tall and coming in at 2,000 pounds, this was going to get interesting.

St. Hedwig’s congregation was brought into St. Francis Xavier at 24th and Green during the closing of St. Hedwig’s Church in 2005. Since then, life moved on, but the little Polish lady kept vigilant in keeping her home church alive. She saved the cross that fell off the steeple during demolition, how she moved the 800 pound cross, I’m not quite sure. She’s quite spry for her age. The vigilance paid out in spades when one day she saw her. The carved marble statue of St. Hedwig had gone missing during the closing, no one knew what happened to her.

Found not far from St. Francis, on private property, the little Pole went to work and got face to face with the current keeper of the carving. Hearing the story, the man decided to donate the statue back to the church and the little Polish lady. I’m a big believer in Karma, I think that fellow was as well.

So there I was in 2010 rigging up this beautiful piece, wiggling it out from it’s tight nook. Little Polish lady watching, vigilant. Lifting her up from her perch, riding in the back of the truck, St. Hedwig gazing straight ahead, eyes never wavering. We brought her to the churches new home at St. Francis, it was decided she would be set at the Nunnery across the street from St. Francis. We dug a footer and poured a concrete pier to hold a nice slab of reclaimed King of Prussian Marble. There St. Hedwig was placed for all to see.

“I need help to move St. Hedwig” echoes out of the ear piece of my phone. “What?” I say. “I don’t understand?”. The little Polish lady was on the phone. I had not heard from her in years, but would occasionally drive by the statue to see how she was doing. “The Nunnery is sold, we need to move St. Hedwig. The new owner of the building is going to get rid of her! We have little time”. This was the predicament I found myself in, again, only now it was 10 degrees out in one of the coldest Winters in Philadelphia.

We manged to save her, again. She sit’s behind St. Francis Xavier at 24th and Green, you can see her from the walk. She is just below the Virgin Mary, between the Church and the Catholic School in the garden. The little Polish lady is happy. Vigilant.

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Fall Vintage Sale! Thu, 20 Sep 2012 20:12:50 +0000 As the air turns crisp and the leaves fall, we think it’s a perfect time to celebrate with our loyal customers and friends! Soon, we’ll all be spending so much more time indoors, so while you’re at it, you might as well make sure that you love what you see, right?

Philadelphia Salvage is teaming up with our friends at Meadowsweet Vintage to offer a Fall Vintage Sale! On October 27th, we’ll open up the shop and our neighboring lumber yard to host a dozen local vendors of beautiful vintage finds. We’ll also be sticking to the PSCo tradition of grilling local foods and serving local beers. And we’ll also be featuring live music from local performers, as usual!

Philly Salvage and Fall? Of course, it’s going to be a party!

[If your shop is interested in tabling at this event, please contact Stacy from Meadowsweet or Chris from Philly Salvage. Your product must be vintage or reclaimed in nature.]

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Best Eco-Cool Décor in Philly Thu, 02 Aug 2012 17:21:45 +0000 Best of Philly 2012 – Shopping & Style: Best Eco-Cool Décor
From Philadelphia Magazine (page 177), August 2012

This just in: Philly Salvage was named “Best Eco-Cool Décor” by Philadelphia Magazine in their August “Best of Philly” issue! We had no idea we were even nominated, so this is quite a pleasant surprise! A huge “THANK YOU!” to all of our fantastic customers who voted for us, and we hope you’ll also vote for us for PHL17’s Philly HOT LIST, as well! And, of course, to Philadelphia Magazine, thank you so much for this honor and opportunity! We’re all so excited!

“Greening your home takes on a whole new meaning at this dusty shop where old doors, claw-foot tubs and antique tile are rescued from crumbling spaces and repurposed for modern pads. If owner Chris Stock doesn’t have exactly what you need, he’ll keep an eye out-and chances are he’ll see it soon enough.”

On newsstands NOW!


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Our Party Photos Fri, 27 Jul 2012 18:33:14 +0000 The staff at Philly Salvage would like to send out our heartfelt thanks for the great turnout we had at our first anniversary party back in early July. We had a great time with all of you, enjoying delicious food and local beer, as well as entertainment from local bands. We hope you enjoy these photos from the party as much as we did, and we’re glad you’ve supported our locally-owned business for the past year. Here’s to many more! We’ve also cross-posted this album to our Facebook page, by the way. Feel free to tag yourself and your friends!

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Vote for PSCO! Thu, 19 Jul 2012 22:51:50 +0000

Over the last year, Philly Salvage has really taken off. We’ve got almost 1,600 LIKES onFacebook. We’ve participated in local home and garden shows. We’ve been mentioned in the local press. We’re rapidly growing our business to include online sales with Etsy and our own website. And we just had a FANTASTIC first birthday party! But you know what could make it even better? If we were officially named on PHL17’s 2012 Philly HOT LIST!

Last year, Philadelphians cast more than 95,000 votes and crowned 140 winners in every category from BEST Cheesesteak to BEST Local Blogger. Philly Salvage is nominated in the BEST Antiques category! Get your votes in by September 7th! Just click the button to vote!

Support local businesses like ours by voting for us (and Philly businesses from 90 different categories) for this year’s Philly HOT LIST!


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“Birthday Parties at Mt. Airy…” Sun, 08 Jul 2012 20:24:42 +0000 Birthday Parties at Mt. Airy Village Bring Out the Masses

From the Mt. Airy Patch, 7/8/2012

There was free food, beer and music at Philadelphia Salvage’s first birthday party on Saturday afternoon.

With all that, it’s not surprising that a crowd turned out for the festivities. Philadelphia Community Acupuncture provided free treatments, Susan Lembo of Effortless Hypnosis offered back massages and people got their T-shirts printed upon at the Green on Greene building.

Here are some photos from the event. High Point Cafe was planning on having a pig roast and potluck from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday to celebrate its seventh birthday.


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Article and photos by Zach Subar

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“Reclaiming Philadelphia’s History” Mon, 25 Jun 2012 22:55:35 +0000 From the Weavers Way Co-Op Shuttle, 1/2012

Co-Op shopers may have noticed something unusual going on at 542 Carpenter Lane, the building owned by Weavers Way that once housed Mt. Airy Art Garage. The building now houses Philadelphia Salvage (, and when the doors are open, you can glimpse a huge selection of architectural treasures: bathroom fixtures, sinks, tubs and toilets; lighting fixtures, doors, windows and cabinets; reclaimed lumber and flooring, vintage tiles, furniture, and other reclaimed. Sometimes, there are even selections adorning the sidewalk.

On Thursday, though, things get even more interesting. Every Thursday from 4 – 7 p.m., Philadelphia Salvage invites friends and neighbors to stop by for Thirsty Thursdays, a friendly beer, some good conversation, and maybe a look around at the 4,000 square feet of architectural salvage, furniture and fabulous, frugal, funky, finds from period to mid-century modern.

“We love being part of this community,” said Stock, who opened Philadelphia Salvage in . “Thirsty Thursdays are a part of that, and chance to hang out with our neighbors and friends.”

In addition to architectural salvage and libations, Philadelphia Salvage also offers lamp and lighting repair and rewiring services, as well as classes like their upcoming Natural Building class, which can be seen at For more information about Philadelphia Salvage, call [215-843-3074], or visit them online at Or, of course, stop by for a beer, Thursday’s from 4 to 7 p.m.

Article written by by Jonathan McGoran, Shuttle Editor

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“Stylish Wreckage” Mon, 25 Jun 2012 22:47:19 +0000 From The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 18, 2011

You can see Chris Stock’s work all over the city:

A white marble countertop at Earth Bread + Brewery in Mount Airy was once part of the dance floor at the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The Night Kitchen Bakery, in Chestnut Hill, boasts a floor made from new boards – pulled from a Dumpster.

Now Stock, whose nine-year-old company, the Stock Group, uses reclaimed materials to renovate Philadelphia homes and businesses, is offering his treasure trove of flooring, tile, and architectural details in a new Mount Airy store.

“I want to recycle buildings,” he said. “I want people to think of reusing before they just buy from Home Depot.”

Certainly a glut of HGTV reality shows about home renovation has given salvage items a new shelf life – homeowners are more confident incorporating an old high school locker as a broom closet, or laying 100-year-old pine floors in a newly built house.

But when Philadelphia Salvage opens on Carpenter Lane April 1, it will join an industry with a long tradition of flux. To succeed is to understand that not everything old is new – changing tastes and economic swings require store owners to constantly adjust to new trends, despite century-old inventory.

Of the Philadelphia-area salvage stores, the mainstays are Architectural Antiques Exchange, which has been in the same location on Second Street in Northern Liberties since the 1970s. ReStore opened in 2003 in Port Richmond, and Provenance was created in 2005, first located in Fairmount and now in a bigger space on Canal Street near Columbus Boulevard.

When Architectural Antiques Exchange owner Mark Charry entered the business full time in 1971, he bought mantels and tile from the wreckers tearing down Victorian homes for Temple University’s campus expansion.

“That set the stage for a lot of beautiful wrecked material,” he said. Victorian design was just becoming popular again, and Charry was easily able to resell what he salvaged.

For years, many of his biggest customers were theme restaurants like the Spaghetti Warehouse seeking to create a nostalgic, quirky atmosphere by decorating with antiques and kitsch.

But in the late 1980s, the number of Charry’s restaurant clients declined, and he began to notice an uptick in interest from homeowners. Magazines popularized the idea of using one or two antique pieces to spice up an otherwise bland new space, and the eventual housing boom fueled even more demand for home decor items. When the bubble burst, many of Charry’s smaller customers were eliminated.

Still, Charry always manages to find buyers for his best sellers – doors, mantels, and antique bars. “Everybody needs a door, and some people need 30 or 40 doors.”

These days, buyers are especially looking for pieces to complement modern interiors, or antiques to create a 1920s Hollywood glamour look. Lately, Charry has noticed a growing market for industrial antiques.

The inventory at Stock’s Philadelphia Salvage is likely to reflect this trend as well. In addition to decorative elements from Victorian homes, Stock is planning to offer industrial objects such as a line of coat racks, mirrors, and other accent pieces made by artist Terry McCall’s company, GearForms, out of antique sewer grate covers, giant gears, and foundry patterns. Stock will also sell raw building materials like heart pine joists, doors, and flooring.

The store will double as an event space, hosting regular art shows featuring pieces with a recycled look, and classes for homeowners and builders. Topics will include green roof design, straw-bale construction, and how to make paint out of natural ingredients like flour or clay.

“I’m never going to rely on one thing,” said Stock, who is expecting his many business interests to help sustain one another. “The architectural salvage business will supply materials and clients to the construction business.”

Bob Beaty, who owns Provenance with Scott Lash and Chris Donna, got interested in the salvage world in 1965 when he worked as a timekeeper for a construction company in Center City. Beaty used a friend’s pickup truck to salvage granite floor tiles from an old department store and sold them to a stone company. Just like that, he was hooked.

Provenance’s survival strategy: mastering the art of the up-sell. Want to buy an antique door? Donna will refinish it for you for a fee. Want to figure out how to tie salvaged items into the design of a new house? Provenance can help you work out a complete interior design plan. Don’t have a contractor? Provenance will install what it sells.

And Beaty is something of an evangelist, promoting the use of reclaimed materials to people like Gray Hansen and his wife, Justine.

The couple had been planning to build an environmentally friendly new home on a vacant lot near 20th and Poplar. “We both consider ourselves relatively green people, and we had this opportunity to apply that to something larger than just putting our aluminum cans in a blue bucket,” he said.

But the idea of using salvaged material on a large scale didn’t seem possible until the Hansens met Beaty two years ago. With his help, they included salvage in nearly every room of their new house – floors, baseboards, light fixtures, sinks, vanity tops, bathtubs, windows, and tiles.

The finished house looks modern on the outside, Hansen said, but inside, “it feels dreamy.”

Last summer, Beaty’s company doubled its square footage by moving to new digs in Northern Liberties. Customers at Provenance are all over the map – homeowners with a do-it-yourself bent; contractors whose customers like the aesthetic of mixing old and new materials; architects; retail chains and restaurants.

Most of ReStore’s customers are homeowners, says owner Linda Mellish, who sees her shoppers becoming interested in reclaimed items after shunning cheap building materials like laminates, plastics, and hollow-core doors. “There’s a much greater interest in doing things green and environmentally sound,” she said.

Yet often the main motivation behind customers’ love of the salvage is respect for their home’s history. The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia expects more than 1,000 people to show up at its annual Old House Fair – this year March 26 at Germantown Friends School. Vendors include contractors, designers, architects, and, yes, architectural salvage dealers.

“Visitors to the Old House Fair aren’t tire-kickers,” wrote fair coordinator George Hoessel in an e-mail. They are mostly homeowners, “motivated to preserve, protect, and upgrade the old house that they love.”

Not surprisingly, the dramatic peaks and valleys in the real estate market have had a big impact on the architectural salvage business. Since the recession, Mellish said, customers are more likely to bargain. “People used to come in and buy 15 doors and 12 lights, and now they consternate over one,” she said.

Now Mellish is putting ReStore and the building it occupies on the market. She believes it’s a business poised for growth (Mellish still does a brisk trade in Victorian tiles and ornate hardware from the 19th century), but, close to retirement, she doesn’t have the energy to take the business to the next level. “I love my customers,” she said, but the store “needs fresh eyes, and a fresh outlook.”

Customers, after all, still are looking for a bargain, and most salvage stores have strategies for keeping their material reasonably priced. Take a used Ikea kitchen Stock was offering: “I got the kitchenette for free, and I’m going to sell it for $400, and we’re going to keep it out of a Dumpster,” he said.

Mellish and Stock both offer to deconstruct salvageable materials for free, keeping the choice pieces for resale. The owners of Provenance deliberately chose a location that’s not prime retail. They get more space for their money and the store’s prices reflect that, Lash said.

But in the long run, is it cheaper for property owners to renovate using salvaged materials?

Yes. And no.

While you can get great reclaimed wood flooring for $2 per square foot (compared with about $3.50 for new wood flooring), the cost of installing it usually eclipses the cost savings of buying older material.

Still, Stock said, the superior quality of antique wood means it will last longer than cheap, new flooring.

“Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper,” Lash agreed. “We build hundred-year floors.”

Article written by Virginia C. McGuire


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“Salvage business full of adventure” Mon, 25 Jun 2012 22:42:24 +0000 From The Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/23/2012

Lots of people know how to construct buildings. Chris Donna knows how to deconstruct them. “Given enough time,” he said, “I can completely take a building apart, in reverse from the process in which it was built. I could save every single nail that comes out of it.”

But Donna, one of the owners of Provenance in Northern Liberties, usually isn’t given enough time as he attempts to dismantle crumbling churches, warehouses, and hospitals.

“A lot of times, people don’t want to admit that a building needs to come down until it’s too late,” he said. “So then it gets to the point where the building is unsafe or there’s financial issues, and the building has to come down very quickly.”

This is the world of architectural salvage, a treasure hunt made glamorous by TV shows like American Pickers and trendy by an environmentally conscious class of young urban homeowners. It encompasses endless drive-by appraisals of shuttered warehouses in the hope that an owner will show up and let them inside; the adrenaline-pumping suspense of sifting through the unknown; the perils of urban exploration, and the occasional 3 a.m. meetings with Ralph Lauren buyers willing to pay $5,000 for a haul of dusty old piano covers.

This obsession-cum-business has taken Donna and his partners into the depths of the Divine Lorraine Hotel (the “holy grail” of Philly salvage at one time, according to partner Bob Beaty) to extract toothbrush holders and chandeliers; to Independence Mall where they’d been called in to pry up 600 marble slabs, and deep into the innards of dozens of churches, seminaries, and factories condemned or razed to make way for condos or rehabbed into Buddhist temples. (While curbside finds and Dumpster debris are fair game, Donna and his competitors typically take materials on private property only with permission. Theft occurs, of course, but Donna said businesses like his are legitimate ones, operating strictly within the law.)

“The thing about reclaimed material,” Donna said, “is it’s all around you, so you just have to open your eyes and see it.”

Salvage, he pointed out, isn’t new to Philadelphia: Many turn-of-the-century Main Line mansions featured interiors imported from older European estates. But in the last decade or so, he said, it has crept into the mainstream.

Chris Stock, the owner of Philadelphia Salvage, began tracking down reclaimed material for his construction company about seven years ago, and now sells it out of his West Mount Airy shop. It started, he said, when he began noticing the waste all around him. “I would see someone throw out a door or whatever and I would think, ‘It’s such a great door. I can totally use that for a client’s home.’ Then I would see them knocking down old homes, and I would see they were just destroying all the vintage subway tile in the bathrooms.”

Soon enough, contractors and demolition companies got to know him, Stock said: “I’m the guy that wants their stuff they’d normally throw away. But back then I’d get it for free, and now I’d have to pay for it because they all know it has value.”

Architectural salvage is still rare enough that there are deals (and almost steals) to be had. Stock recently picked up an “amazing” fireplace mantel for free from a property owner who didn’t know what he was tossing out; he sold it for $1,200. But with more competition among a growing number of salvagers and pickers, that’s becoming less common.

So it becomes a game partly about networking — “you have to get the message out there,” said Donna, to contractors, to the city, to preservationists, and to property owners — and partly about sheer persistence and keen curiosity.

Stock said he frequently makes his way to little-traveled corners of the city, peering into old buildings and leaving his card in doors. “I’ve been driving by this one building for years and finally, one day, the gates are open,” he recalled. “So I pull over and introduce myself and make a deal.” It paid off: The five-story North Philly tool factory yielded a bumper crop of industrial lighting, wood floors, fire doors, metal pallets, and other “tchotchkes.”

The tools of this trade: “Flashlight, a spelunking light on your head — and a weapon of some sort, like a hammer or a gun or knife.”

Yes, a weapon. It’s not the safest career choice. Stock once received a call to grab what he could from a building that was to be demolished the next day. The five-story warehouse just next door was already in the process of demolition — and it partly collapsed while his crew was on the scene. Another time, he received permission to go into the Budd Co. car and train body factory at Hunting Park and Wissahickon, and found a different danger: “There’s people in there stealing copper. When you walk in the door, you take a hammer out and beat it on metal to announce you’re there, and they scurry out the back like cockroaches.”

Once he does negotiate a haul, the risk is also financial. Boards can splinter when you try to pull them up, or hidden rot could lurk underneath.

But it can be worth the hunt. When Stock recently bought some old wooden barrels, the owner said he’d have to take the 60-year-old pieces of fabric stuffed inside them, too. Those ended up being $5,000 piano covers, soon to live again as Ralph Lauren denim wear. At another factory, in Germantown, Stock hauled away 200 heavy round knitting-machine bases for $10 apiece — and ended up selling each for around $400 or $500 as bases for dining tables.

Other items come to dealers like Stock and Donna through ad hoc Dumpster diving, purchases from professional and amateur pickers, and tag sales or auctions of newly shuttered office buildings or hospitals. (In these cases, everything must go, and it does: Brian Lawlor, owner of Mid-Century Furniture Warehouse in Fishtown, said he once sold at auction a morgue table from a Pittsburgh hospital that had been dismantled.)

Still, not everyone is hunting for treasure. Joe Malseed, who launched his Fishtown business Retrend Philly last year, just likes the idea of reuse and sees the potential for greatness in old floorboards, joists, and rafters. A carpenter who sometimes helps friends rehab Philly rowhouses, he began taking home the discards to make wine racks, picture frames, window boxes, and dining room sets.

Like a chef preaching snout-to-tail cooking, Malseed doesn’t believe in waste. “When I go into a house, I’m taking everything. It’s so in demand right now.”

A year into his business, he now gets calls from demolition companies eager to avoid disposal costs — and from local residents and businesses, hungry for decor with character and perhaps for a story to go with it.

Donna said the gospel of reclaimed goods — and their versatility, for use in modern design or traditional context — is spreading.

“For a long time, Americans were addicted to this idea of the new-car smell,” he said. “Now, people are looking at things that have age and texture and history.”

Still, like Malseed, Donna often finds it’s necessary to perform the alchemy of restoring or reimagining for his customers. “We’ve focused a lot on how you can process something: How can you turn a sidewalk into a countertop; how do you turn a countertop into wood flooring? How can you turn light fixtures into furniture?”

Given the time the owners spend on marketing (not to mention scavenging and restoring), Provenance is able to take in less than one-tenth of the materials available to it.

Mark Charry, the owner of Architectural Antiques Exchange in Northern Liberties, said he has the same experience. “There’s a lot of low-end stuff out there and the dealers can’t absorb that many doors and moldings. There’s stuff being thrown away every day.”

Article written by Samantha Melamed

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Happy Birthday to Us! Thu, 14 Jun 2012 23:50:39 +0000 We’re celebrating our first anniversary as a business by having a fantastic party on July 7th, and we hope you’ll join us! Enjoy local beer and food as well as entertainment from local bands! RSVP on Facebook and keep an eye out for updates!

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