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My Positive Experience with Architectural Salvage

by Candice Whitlow

The biggest thing I have learned when it comes to restoration is that learning never stops when it comes to restoration. As redundant as it sounds, it’s a very true statement. Every project can bring new insight, and last summer a project my family’s construction company started “schooled” me in something that used to make me cringe. I’m talking about the controversial topic of architectural salvage.


First let me tell you the story of this project. Our local historical society was offered the unique donation of a one-room school house. The house of reading, writing, and arithmetic was originally built in the late 1800’s, and was utilized for educating young minds for almost 50 years. In the 1940’s it was converted into a church and by the 1970’s it was just used as a barn on the property. For several years it had sat in the middle of a field and eventually became a blistered, sun faded, shell of its former self. Fortunately it was about to become appreciated again for all of the history that lurked in its walls.

Of course the school house couldn’t stay in its current location, but luckily our local museum has a park that showcases the primitive buildings of the past. The new location already had a log cabin, a barn, and a blacksmith shop; a one-room school house would be a great addition! We had our new location, but now we had to take on our first task to make sure that the building made the journey safely.

We started by removing the roof. All of the pieces that were removed were meticulously labeled to make sure they went back to the right place (if you have ever worked on an old building you know that no two pieces are exactly the same) The next step was to remove an addition off the back of the building that was added when it was converted to a church. After that the building was braced thoroughly so it would hold together while it made the trip to its new location. A house moving company then came in and loaded it onto a truck and it was ready to go.


The trip was a success, and after prepping the new location the building was set. The next task was to put the roof back together, and then we needed to find all of the missing pieces so this building could be whole once again. Among the missing pieces were a few pieces of metal for the roof along with the sheets necessary to rebuild the front porch, siding for the entire back wall and the gable on the front, windows, and lumber to rebuild the porch. Every single one of these missing pieces needed to have the age on them like the rest of the building, otherwise they would stick out like a sore thumb. So far we have found sheets of metal for the main roof and old timbers to rebuild the porch from a collapsed barn. We salvaged siding from another school house in the area that was too far gone to save, and we recently located a source for windows from yet another old school house that is also too far gone. It’s still a work in progress but, we are getting closer and closer to it being complete.

I am not a supporter of demolishing old buildings and houses, but seeing this building become whole again really changed my attitude on architectural salvage. I have heard from others in the restoration community that architectural salvage is just a way to make a profit on the destruction of old buildings and houses. I like to see it as organ donation for buildings that have lost what makes them whole over the years. Whether its light fixtures, trim, or even a door knob, architectural salvage is a great way to find missing pieces on your restoration project. The more you support salvage, the more pieces of an old house are seen as something that should be saved, and they are less likely to end up in a landfill. That’s definitely something I can support!
To follow keep up with the progress of the School House Restoration follow our Facebook Page.


As CIRCA’s resident old house restoration expert, Candice has lived her whole life in fixer-uppers. Her love for old houses stems from growing up in Doniphan MO, where there is an old house on every corner and the roots of her family tree run deep. She currently manages her father’s company, BARCO Construction and Design. Candice is on the board of the Doniphan Neighborhood Assistance Program and has worked closely with the City of Doniphan Historic Preservation Commission, documenting the city’s historic downtown buildings. She devotes most of her spare time to restoring her 1920s cottage-style bungalow that she shares with her husband Jake and their two dogs Rowdy and Mac.


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