BY GWENDOLYN GIRSDANSKY
COLUMBIA — Stacked in the dark, unheated back room of the Heibel-March building are antique, wavy-glass windows that haven’t been made since the advent of tempered glass.
To the left, a tarp covers a 5-foot-wide pocket door among others that Patrick Earney found from buildings about to be torn down around Columbia. The tarp shifts with a slight touch and water from the leaky roof splashes onto the floor.
The dozens of wavy pane glass windows, wrought-iron balcony railings and plumbing fixtures were collected by Earney, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, for the foundation of an architectural salvage yard.
The collection of old building parts is being assembled through the Historic Preservation Commission to promote salvage and restoration. People can purchase items and use them in their own renovations. The money would be used to raise awareness to salvage.
“I’ve got to figure out how I can do it in the city,” Earney said. “We can’t be a profitable enterprise. But we can set up a revolving fund so we can have money to help promote salvage. The goal is to use this money to help provide assistance to rehabbers.”
In large cities, architectural salvage yards are often privatized, Historic Preservation Commission Chair Brian Treece said. Often they have gargoyles, windows, doors and other fixtures in large, industrial-sized warehouses.
“It doesn’t seem like Columbia has risen to that scale yet, but we are collecting in a not-for-profit way,” Treece said. Instead, he sees it more as a marketplace exchange. The commission is still evaluating different business models to decide how the yard would be utilized best.
Earney said architectural salvage yards are popular in other cities, but in Columbia there aren’t necessarily a lot of old buildings being taken down. But there’s still a niche for the idea.
“Not everyone can afford to renovate a building. But we are all sensitive to what goes into the landfill,” said Treece said. “If we can keep some of the great old architectural elements out of the landfill, that would be our goal.”
The commission has planned to move what fixtures are at the Heibel-March building on Range Line Street and Wilkes Boulevard. The Columbia Missourian reported the Columbia City Council on Monday will draft an agreement to transfer ownership of the building to Grove Construction LLC.
Earney picked up the architectural salvage yard project from a predecessor with a personal interest in salvage. Earney had begun salvaging items for his own home and had been trading at an architectural salvage yard in St. Louis. Once the restorations for his home were complete, he just began storing the collection in his garage where it grew and grew.
“A person doesn’t need 45 doors,” he said.
The materials now located in the Heibel-March Building came from buildings about to be torn down like an old sorority near Burnam and Curtis avenues in Greektown.
“Me and other people go to the demolition and salvage the architectural elements that would otherwise be demolished,” Earney said.
He found windows that members of the sorority didn’t even know were there because they had been covered up during previous renovations. These windows have wavy glass panes, which are becoming increasingly valuable because they are no longer being made. If the panes are looked at at an angle, the outside world looks distorted.
“It’s the stuff that you can’t replace,” he said.
Supervising editor is John Schneller.