“Do-It-Yourselfers” Search For Salvaged Materials

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(Host) It’s sad to see old buildings topple,decay, or get auctioned off. But some of those floorboards and faucets get a second chance at life in salvage houses, where "do-it-yourself" types find alternatives to big box building materials.

VPR’s Charlotte Albright recently did a little window shopping – literally – on both sides of the Connecticut River.

(Albright) At Vermont Salvage, right in the middle of White River Junction, Lynn LaBombard rolls an antique chalkboard down the center of a cavernous warehouse full of doors, windows, pillars, mantels,tubs, sinks. There’s even a deconstructed bowling alley neatly stacked along the wall.  Her husband, owner Jesse LaBombard, stands in front of an elegant antique  street light.

(LaBombard) "And this a pretty famous lamppost,it’s in a lot of postcards and pictures, it came from, .if you ever go toWoodstock, Vermont, right downtown by Bentley’s there used to be a little traffic island there and this light post sat there for many years."

(Albright) And if you’ve ever watched Clydesdales plod through Woodstock in this  Christmas-time TV ad,  you’ve seen something else La Bombard salvaged.

("Holiday Greetings" from Budweiser . . .)

(LaBombard) " And that song comes on and at the end of the show they show the inside of a house looking out a window that looks just like that andthat’s our window,  and every time that commercial comes on my kids or someone else jumps up and says, "That’s Dad’s window!" So that commercial has been on TV for years and years and it’s kind ofa cute story, too."

(Albright) In any season, LaBombard says, Vermont is fertile ground forarchitectural rescue missions.

(LaBombard) "I think there’s definitely a spiritof not wasting, you know Vermonters hate to waste anything, so I think that’swhat I feel mostly from them."

(Jack Anderson) "It’s good, it’s green, it’srecycling. In that sense it’s a good thing."

(Albright) Jack Anderson is an architecturalhistorian and former Vermont lawmaker who serves asExecutive Director of the Woodstock Historical Society. But as a museum curator, he also sees adownside to high-end salvaging.

(Anderson) "The realarchitectural salvage where you take elements from some historic building,whether you take the brackets or you take the door surrounds or you take theold windows-the original building loses a lot when you remove those."

(Albright) But across the river, in the spartanyellow frame building housing Littleton, New Hampshire’s ADMAC salvage, Rayand Sarah Cloutier see what they do as more like public service than a strictlycommercial enterprise. 

Amid white claw foot bathtubs in all sizes, Ray Cloutier says preserving Vermont – one mantle one doorknobat a time– is time consuming and often back -breaking. But he says it’s ahidden driver of many local economies. 

(Cloutier) "Because, you know if something isburied in somebody’s barn or attic or basement or shed it’s not on the marketand what we’re trying to do is create economy from what people have saved."

(Albright) Ray’s wife, Sara, says she’s happy tosee more and more non-profit salvage houses serving low-income renovators.

Meanwhile, as she and her husband nearretirement, they’re looking to recycle not just their vast collection, but thebusiness itself. It’s for sale. They hope the next buyers will be more internetsavvy than they are, because that’s how a lot of do-it-yourselfers are windowshopping these days. 

For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright.


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