In his 30-plus years of owning a salvage store, what has always excited Tim Harmon the most is not an elaborate stained-glass window or a charmingly paint-chipped cottage door. It’s a simple childhood toy—marbles.
“Often they’re in the crawlspace under the house because they’ve dropped through a knothole in the floor,” he says. “I don’t consider it a successful salvage job until I find some marbles.”
Every day, he carries a few marbles in his pocket, reminders of the people who once lived in the home whose doors, windows, hardware, and furniture are likely to end up for sale in his store, Tim & Julie’s Another Fine Mess.
Collectively, salvage shops are giving new life to old homes’ and businesses’ bones and joints that otherwise would likely end up in a landfill. Full of intriguing vintage finds, these treasure-hunting hotspots are worthy stops on your next home-decor shopping trip.
Rewired Antiques and Society of Salvage
Jeremiah Goss, owner of Rewired Antiques, specializes in restoring vintage light fixtures, like the chandelier he fixed up for a couple renovating a Meridian-Kessler home that once belonged to Frank P. Fox, a driver in the first Indianapolis 500. Goss recently salvaged a set of glass prism pendant lights from the original Weir Cook Terminal at the Indianapolis International Airport.
Most of his items are from the first half of the 20th century, found at flea markets or bought from other dealers. Occasionally, pieces are acquired from shoppers.
“People come in, look around, and say, ‘I have some of these in the attic,’” he says.
But Goss has more unconventional objects for sale, too—like an 1899 jail cell. He bought the two-man unit from the Indiana History Center after it was used in an exhibit on Prohibition. It originally sat in the Elmwood, Indiana, City Building.
For Goss, prolonging the lives of things is a matter of respect.
“If it can be fixed up, why not give it another life?” he says. He shares the near-eastside warehouse with sisters Sandra and Shelly Jarvis of Society of Salvage. The pair fill their space with vintage factory items, like workbenches, desks, and metal carts and lockers. Most bear signs of their former blue-collar lives: chips, scrapes, nicks, and dents. Some have found new homes in local restaurants Bluebeard, Rook, Thunderbird, and Eat + Drink.
Shelly appreciates that these items are built to last.
“That’s why they’re still around,” she says, “even if in some cases there are layers of dirt, rust, grease, or grime. Underneath, there is something that is just so cool, it needs to be uncovered.”
Amid the industrial finds are colorful block letters, piles of billiard balls, neatly organized shelves of Pyrex lab glass, and stacks of dishes by Homer Laughlin and Buffalo China.
But the quirkiest objects sit in a corner that looks like something out of a mad scientist’s 1950s-era laboratory. There’s a large beige X-ray machine once used by an Indianapolis optometrist that the sisters envision being reused as a light—once the radioactive component is disposed of properly. There are five working antique patient chairs, X-rays displayed on light boxes, surgical tools, and a curious-looking item called a synoptophore, a diagnostic device used on the eyes.
Sandra has collected pieces her entire life. Most of them are from the 1920s through the 1960s.
“Everybody knows I love this stuff,” she says. “They call me and say, ‘There’s an opportunity; are you interested?’ Yes, I am.”
Architectural Antiques of Indianapolis
It used to be that only those rehabbing old homes would stop in Architectural Antiques of Indianapolis on the northwest side. Now, about half of its customers are looking for items to repurpose, says employee Jonathan Bonnet, nephew of owners Norm and Amy Kanis.
“A lot of people like the shabby chic, the flaking paint,” Bonnet says. “People are tending toward the rustic kind of look.”
To achieve that aesthetic, shoppers can sift through a barn filled with salvaged windows, interior and exterior doors, and heavy cast-iron sinks. Those who want more chic than shabby can admire the glittering cascade and wedding-cake chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the many colorful stained-glass pieces, or the pair of 8-foot-tall oak doors with strap hinges that were salvaged from a church in La Porte before it was torn down.
Another elaborately detailed oak door boasts zipper carvings, a rare feature that involves cutting out tiny notches in the glass one at a time.
“It definitely attests to the quality of the piece,” Bonnet says. “It’s probably the nicest single door we’ve ever had.”
A soda fountain much like one you’d see in a retro drugstore is prime for being repurposed as a bar. It’s similar to a piece that Architectural Antiques sold to Tomlinson Tap Room at City Market.
“They did a really good job of fixing it up and putting taps in it,” Bonnet says.
Tim & Julie’s Another Fine Mess
Built in 1903, the structure on East 10th Street that houses Tim & Julie’s Another Fine Mess looks every bit like the relics sold inside. It was once a hardware store, a fitting history for a shop full of parts and pieces that many customers seek out to restore their homes.
Others are looking for a special piece—an antique light fixture or a mantel to place around a nonexistent fireplace. Still others have repurposing in mind.
“They often want an old door to make a table or a desk out of,” Harmon says. “They buy odd pieces of wood or metal to make a lamp or to just hang on the wall as art. Doorknobs for coat hooks, hymnal holders from churches to hold reading material in the bathroom—millions of very creative ideas.”
And to those ends, Harmon and business partner Julie Crow definitely have inventive types covered. Weathered doors are lined up to rifle through, and drawers are filled to the brim with hooks, screws, springs, and hinges. Hanging high on one wall is detailed white gingerbread trim salvaged from a farmhouse porch in Roachdale. Most prefer cutting off a section and using it inside as a decorative element, Crow says.
Near the front window is a behemoth of a stove, a mint-green Oriole style with six burners and three ovens that once sat in a Meridian-Kessler mansion. Amid the many doorknobs is one from the Hume-Mansur building, Chase Tower’s predecessor that opened in 1911 and was torn down in 1980.
Tucked away behind a closed door is a stained-glass window from downtown’s Holy Angels Catholic Church. Before the building was demolished in 2012, Harmon and Crow salvaged eight windows, a baptismal font, pews, vestment cabinets, and even the clips that were attached to the backs of pews where ladies hung their handbags.
“I spent an afternoon taking hundreds of [screws] off of these pieces,” Crow says. “It was so much fun. It really is a blast.”
Despite his many great finds, though, there is one thing that’s eluded Harmon.
“We never have found a can or a box with money in it”
Photos by Tony Valainis
This article originally appeared in the Home 2014 issue.