Posts Tagged history

The Booths of Many Lives

All the materials at The RE Store have former lives and stories, but some have even more layers of history than usual. Our field crew picked up ten of these double-sided turquoise blue and burgundy booths from Pepper Sisters Restaurant as they were undergoing a recent renovation. Pepper Sisters got the booths from the venerable Bunk’s Drive-In in the early 90’s as they were closing.

booths of many lives

Once we had these unique pieces, we listed them on Craigslist (always a good place to see the latest and greatest in the store!) where the film crew for the Vancouver-based show, “Supernatural” found them a few days later. They quickly snatched up seven of them for use in the upcoming season as part of a hotel and restaurant setting. The set designer was excited to find out about The RE Store – and is committed to the booths being salvaged once again after they conclude their use on the set. Stay tuned for where they may turn up next… and come find the remaining booths (and others like them) at the our store.

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Treasures from an 1880s Bellevue Homestead

bellevue ranch collage

The Seattle field crew recently salvaged some architectural details and furniture (corbels, columns, mail sorting table, chairs, barrels can be seen in the above photos) from a barn on property that is one of the very earliest homesteads on the east side of Lake Washington. The original 20-acre homestead was established in 1884, located east of Yarrow Bay in Bellevue. The property has been in the current owners family since 1919 when their great-grandfather purchased it – now referred to as The “Ranch”.  The homestead first operated as a dairy and fruit orchard into the 1930’s. When the owner’s parents moved into the homestead as newlyweds in September of 1940, the property had been vacant or rented during the later part of the Depression.  Happily it had remained largely unharmed with much of the furniture, barn, and outbuildings intact.  As a young civil engineer, the current owner’s father began the remodeling of the old Victorian house after WWII that was originally building in 1880s, devoting the bulk of his spare time over the next 50 years to the eternal project of renovating the house for his growing family, then maintaining the property. The original homestead cabin remained on the upper part of the property as well until the 1990’s – and these architectural details we brought back to the store from both buildings had been carefully stored in the barn since the 1950s.  Come check them out!  

 

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Serendipity at The RE Store

IMG_2212We love a little serendipity here at The RE Store – and we recently had one of those moments at the Seattle store where just the right item was no longer needed in its home at the exact moment that it was needed in a new place.  Our crew backed up the truck to the store from a day in the field, and unloaded a set of French doors from a 1909 West Seattle house.  The door set was still leaning on the back edge of the truck as Bruce, the owner of Comstock Apartments – a 1909 building on Queen Anne – walked into the bay of the store in need of some doors, with the exact dimensions of this set that just came in. He wanted to keep with the original look of the apartment and building – and found it here, just off the truck! As many of you know, and our door sections can attest, most anything built in the Northwest before the mid-last-century was not of a standard size.  So to find the exact size, from the same year/era building at that moment must have been fate.

You never know what might be waiting for you – come to either store to see if that hard-to-find item is here!  

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How The RE Store Was Created 1991-1994

Storefront compilation 1999-2013 The Bellingham RE Store opened its doors in 1993 at the corner of Kellogg and Meridian, and the Seattle location opened in 1999. Jack Weiss, a council member for the city of Bellingham, recently recalled how The RE Store was created. When Jack was working as the Whatcom County Waste Reduction and Recycling Coordinator in the early 1990s, he hired Jeff Brown as a consultant to write the County Solid Waste Management Plan. Jeff Brown was then the executive director of the non-profit Environmental Resource Services (ERS), which later became RE Sources, the parent organization of The RE Store. According to Jack, Jeff was integral in his role as the brainchild of many of ERS’s early endeavors. The same could be said about Carol Rondello, who was Jeff’s go-to for both ideas and implementation. There were a number of others back then who also deserve credit in the evolution of what eventually became The RE Store, but Jeff and Carol carried most of the water. At that time, Jeff’s plan had the weight that state growth management plans do today. A few chapters of that plan provided the framework to counter the business-as-usual approach by the waste management industry. The plan was a couple of years in the making and was finally approved in 1994. The plan went on to become a template for other counties in the state. Jack marveled that he’d “never seen any plan on any subject that was as comprehensive and forward-looking as that one.” Back in 1991, Jeff brought the idea of a reusable material exchange operation to Jack after having seen the initial success of Urban Ore in Berkeley and Hippo Hardware in Portland. During the next 18 months, the two spent quite a bit of time fleshing out the idea to the point of searching the county and city for storefront sites for a county-run operation. The idea in its purest form was to accept materials from the public or contractors prior to disposal but also to scavenge the tip floor at the two incinerators and pull out reusable items. Jack hired ERS to do a survey of what was possible on the tip floor, because the true intent of this type of operation was waste diversion, and ERS knew their stuff. Jack decided to take $30,000 out of a grant award he’d received and apply it toward seed money for a material exchange through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process. They received two responses to the RFP: one from ERS and another from County Construction Recyclers (CCR—a demolition landfill off of Hemmi Road in Bellingham, which is now closed). CCR had a good proposal, but Jack chose ERS because of their philosophical understanding of the RFP purpose. The focus was on waste diversion rather than money. Carl Weimer, now a Whatcom County council member, had at the time become the next director of ERS. After Jack signed off on the contract, Carl secured the site on Meridian where The RE Store now stands and hired Bruce Odom as manager. Ultimately, the launch of The RE Store was the result of many hands. “The one regret I have about The RE Store,” says Jack, “is that it never did fully explore waste diversion opportunities on tip floors of all types of waste, but it did establish a great salvaging operation for building materials.” As we celebrated 20 years this month, we remember Jeff Brown, Jack Weiss, Carol Rondello, Carl Weimer, Bruce Odum and everyone else who made the creation of The RE Store possible.

Posted in: Green business, Reference and resources, Stories about people, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Complete remodel of Rousseau home – restoration, reuse and daylighting

Here is a journey for you – a tale of complete remodeling of the interior and exterior over 11 years, by Katrina Roussea. This home is featured in Sustainable Connections’ 2013 Imagine This! Home and Landscape Tour. Get your tickets today for 9 homes full of green building and landscaping inspiration!

rousseau remodel collage

“When my husband and I purchased the house 13 years ago, there were elements of the Victorian design from 1905 and a major Colonial Revival renovation in 1941. We were lucky to have photos so that we could see how the house looked over the years. Apparently the house was originally located on Chestnut St near the old St Josephs Hospital location and was moved to the current location in the mid 1980’s.  Because the house had been altered so much through the years we felt that we could do a “semi-historical” renovation.  We felt that we had the flexibility to use whatever historic features we wanted to and not be constrained by any particular historical period.’

‘We have so many great resources here in Bellingham and the Pacific NW.  I also did lots of research online. Over the last 13 years I have been to many older home open houses getting ideas and asking questions.  I have also taken and collected lots of photos that were really helpful when we started to design.  We were also careful to pick a contractor who would be open to re-using old house parts and who would get what we were trying to do.  Bellingham Bay Builders has gone above and beyond in that regard.’

‘We have lived in the house for 13 years, and the house did not seem to “flow.”  Our kitchen was chopped up, passageways were blocked.  Upstairs was one tiny bathroom and two large bedrooms (one was 22 feet long) with 2 closets and one tiny bedroom with no closet.’

‘Going into the remodel we had several priorities.  

  1. Reconfigure the floor plan without adding much additional square footage to make the house flow better.  We studied the “Not So Big House” books to achieve that.  
  2. Try and re-use everything that we could from the house.  
  3. Find historical architectural artifacts and re-use those where we could
  4. Make any new materials look original. 

‘We actually started the process 11 years ago.  Once a year I had Jim Gunsolus (of Craftsman Woodworking) take out a window and I then had it stripped at the Strip Shop in Ferndale. The Glass house Co.in Ferndale would restore the leaded glass. Gunsolus then restored the ropes and weights and re-did the trim using old fir that he got from The RE Store.  The effect was stunning and the cost about the same as if we had replaced the windows with new good quality wooden ones.  At about the same time we wanted to put in a gas fireplace, which we did after I found a 100 year old mantle piece that came out of a house in Texas.  The fun for me in these previous projects was that people thought these things were all original to the house.

‘In preparation for the current renovations, I have spent the last year looking for house parts and finding homes for the house parts that we were not going to use. The best items included:

  • 7 vintage doors, at Second Use in Seattle, that came from a house in the Queen Anne neighborhood.  I needed exactly 7 doors and there they were!  I then advertised the doors that I wasn’t going to use on Craigslist and a lady from Blaine who was restoring an old farmhouse was delighted to get them.  
  • A classic 3 panel door that was the exact size that we needed in the kitchen from The RE Store. We also found a nice glass doorknob and lever door set from The RE Store but we are re-using most of our old door hardware.  
  • A pair of antique leaded glass French doors from Second Use in Seattle
  • Vintage hemlock flooring from Earthwise in Seattle – some of the boards were 14 feet long from an old house in Wallingford.  
  • An antique newel post was scored from Skagit Salvage. Gunsolus was able to make a smaller one to match it upstairs.  You can’t tell which is old and which is new.

Surprises in the house included:

  • Historical memorabilia like a child’s homework project that was dated 1908 behind a cupboard. 
  • Stripping the built in cupboards revealed beautiful old growth fir beneath all of the layers of paint. 
  • We figured out how to re-use my favorite door as a pocket door. 
  • Structural beams that had to be added upstairs became a wonderful part of the house. 

The project also included a full replacement of the siding and bringing natural light into the home. Dylan Hicks of Bellingham Bay Builders shared more about the project.

“Designer Deborah Todd worked closely with John and Karina to conceive of the remodel and produced detailed permit drawings. Daylighting was a prime goal of the interior remodel, removing light-blocking interior partitions on the top floor.   New modern windows, multiple new skylights and a creative light plan will ensure a bright interior environment. We removed the three existing layers of siding, replaced windows that were beyond repair and weatherized the shell. We applied new exterior trim and siding to closely match the photo from 1927.”

Karina concluded, “I think my biggest piece of advice to anyone working on their old house is to figure out a way to stay true to your house, even if it means that you have to do things slowly.”

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about contractors, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, You can do it yourself

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Salvaged Items & Rich History of Sanborn Building in Old Ballard: Notes From the Field

by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew Member

Sandborn Bldg salvage image collage

The RE Store’s Seattle field crew had the recent privilege of salvaging the stately, if not slightly dilapidated, G.B. Sanborn building on historical Ballard Avenue. The three story Romanesque structure was named in honor of Ballard businessman Gustavus B. Sanborn (G.B. to his friends) and opened its doors as a hardware store in 1901. Unfortunately, ol’ G.B. passed away shortly thereafter; however, his building has lived on in various forms, including stints as a department store and even a dry goods company.

Thankfully, the Sanborn’s future will remain secure. As of April, the 102 year old structure was undergoing an extensive and well-deserved retrofit that will preserve much of its original character. The project’s contractor enlisted Ballard’s own RE Store to salvage interior fixtures that were otherwise slated for the debris pile.

Items at the top of our architectural salvage list, and at the top of two flights of stairs, included the Sanborn’s original compliment of ornate cast-iron radiators, cast-iron wall mount sinks, fir panel doors, tin-clad swinging doors, and claw-foot tubs. For those of you wondering why antique claw-foot tubs are so expensive, it’s because they’re typically removed from the second floor of a building with plenty of rickety stairs and no elevator.

We began our salvage of the Sanborn by removing over two-dozen original fir panel doors complete with their true 4”x4” jambs. The field crew typically uses a reciprocating saw to cut through the nails that secure the doorjamb to the studs, but it’s sometimes preferable to do it the old fashioned way with a large pry bar. Using the pry bar reduces the amount of dust emitted into the air and eliminates the sparking and friction caused by cutting through nails and shims. Once removed, the door and jamb are screwed together for safer handling.

Because schlepping around two-dozen hung doors wasn’t enough fun, we moved on to radiators. After all, cast-iron radiators and stairs go together like peanut butter and jelly.  The most practical way to move a radiator down a flight of stairs is by securing it to a hand truck. There is a brief thrill of mechanical advantage as you wheel the iron beast to the edge of the landing, but then you go over the falls, and it all comes down to good old person power. In all, the Seattle field crew removed over a dozen cast-iron radiators, but it felt like a lot more.

Inevitably, the process of salvaging an old building like the Sanborn will reveal bits of local history and even a record of changing tastes. For example, we unearthed two beautiful sets of sliding fir library doors that had been totally encased behind closets built out from the walls. Like the current renovations to the Sanborn, these changes may have been made to make the space more inhabitable or may have been an individual preference. Whatever the case, The RE Store was happy to be involved in saving a little bit of Ballard’s history, no matter how heavy it was and how many stairs were involved.

Come check out all the loot brought back from this historical Old Ballard Ave building – most of the items are at the Seattle store, but Bellingham received some of the 5 and 6 panel doors last week.  Keep up with other ‘cool new things in the stores’ by signing up for our e-newsletter, Salvage Times here.   

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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The 2012 End of The World Window Display & Video

In the spirit of light(ness) during this holiday season, we celebrate the kooky cacophony of doomsayers and hopefuls with a tongue-in-cheek window display at The RE Store in Bellingham as we pass through another apocalyptic date, 12/21/2012.

  • Shabby crabby bomb shelter decor blending vintage survival gear with reclaimed building materials
  • Paranoid protection wear on Calamity Jane contrasted by Skippy’s celebration finery
  • Basic food staples displayed in opposition to large quantities of sugary junk food
  • Out in the big world, threatening end-of-the-world prophetic warnings counter-balance with inspirational messages of the new Mayan calendar cycle that begins.

Please take our attempts at lightness as they are intended.

Now can we all get on with it?

“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”

~ R.E.M.

Special thanks to Dana Lyons and John Seed for song permission in our funky little video!

Posted in: Recycled art and trash fashion, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Video posts

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Meet the Fleet – Trucks, Trailers and Moving Stuff Around

Truck collageWe like to move stuff around just as much as any American. The thing that The RE Store does differently is that each load that we carry on our trucks save precious building materials from the brink of doom by way of landfill or incinerator. It is a lot of work and we love it. Our crews drive over 100,000 miles each year if you combine all six of our trucks that roam throughout Western Washington and occasionally East of the mountains.

We have our weekly “truck love” maintenance schedule that insures our trusty steeds stay watered, fed and in as good a condition as we can keep them. Neither of the Seattle trucks have a lift gate. We use ramps or brute strength to get everything on and off and on and off and on and off every day. The trucks have hauled materials from job sites that include homes, businesses and storage facilities. We carry amazing reuse displays to trade shows or haul our Recycled Art Station to community events. The trucks have even hauled tons of trash picked up from our beach clean-up projects as a part of the annual Recycled Arts Show. We utilize biodiesel in our diesel trucks and work to minimize storm water run off from our job sites.

As is true to our car culture, The RE Store’s fleet of trucks all have their own personalities:

Lily the truckLily is a 2000 Ford F250 Crew Cab pickup with over 133,000 miles.
She is lily-white and is the truck that up to six of our Bellingham crew travels in. Lilly witnesses the most progressive conversations and brainstorms, due to her community-building roomy interior. She also carries lots of tools, but not a huge amount of materials. She loves to pull trailers and heave large timbers on her beefy rack. We wonder if she is a pig at heart, as she gets stuck in the mud all too often with her out-of-commission four wheel drive. Lilly has has spent a lot of time on overnight projects out in the San Juan Islands. Bellingham crew member, Charlie Myers, slept in Lilly’s back seat on a Lopez Island job site for four nights. His tent had collapsed under a downpour, so he made due in Lily.

Herman is a 2006 GMC-Isuzu 12-foot box van with over 137,000 miles.
Herman is the heavy lifter with a lift gate, allowing one crew member to do a lot of work and keep stuff dry. Herman is our workhorse and is the newest member of our fleet. He was an exciting replacement, 2 years ago, for our old open bed pickup, Graywolf. He is named after Mt. Herman that located close to Mt. Baker (big and white). Some of our staff wonder if Herman has a crush on Lily.

Blue truckBlue is a 1997 Chevy 3500 with a 12-foot flatbed, the oldest and most tired of our hard-working Bellingham fleet with a whopping 187,000 miles as of October 2012.
Blue has hauled millions of pounds (seriously) of lumber and large items back from thousands of job sites over the years. You name it, Blue has carried it. We have rebuilt the gates twice that close in the sides out of bleacher boards and rebuilt the bed once, out of salvaged 2×6 tongue and groove decking, all on our own. When Blue’s rear steel gates went missing, former crew member Gabe Gonzalez welded up new ones for us.

Possum, the truckPossum is a white, 2001 Isuzu flatbed with over 120,000 miles on the odometer.
We have had Possum for close to a decade. He was named Possum because a possum was living in the Seattle store that evaded capture for weeks. This trusty steed has hauled from more than 2000 job sites. Every brick load over the last seven years came back to the Seattle store on Possum’s strong back. Possums gates are made out of our bleacher board and the deck currently needs replacement, like Blue received.

Fuso, the truckFuso is a white 1994 Mitsubishi flatbed that we put a dump bed on with 175,000 miles.
Fuso has been the main green demolition / deconstruction truck thanks to the dump bed that we installed after buying it in 2007. 15 or more houses have been deconstructed and hauled back to the store in Fuso. This is our only Seattle truck with a working radio, and it rarely is changed from KEXP or KUOW radio stations. Fuso’s side gates are also built out of our favorite wide-plank lumber material, bleacher boards. These bleacher boards sport a patina that could only be created by decades of wiggling and giggling adololescents during their school assemblies and sports events.

Clutch, the truckClutch is a white 1989 Nissan pickup that was donated to our organization in 2002 with over 160,000 miles now.
Clutch is the scout for our Seattle field services and sees the most mileage of all of our trucks. This old friend previews between 1200 and 1500 jobs. Clutch doesn’t have a working radio, so Clutch hears a lot of Joel, our Seattle field manager, talking to himself. Clutch proudly wears the rack that lived formerly on our previous preview rig, Scout.
Before serving The RE Store, Clutch was used by our parent non-profit, RE Sources, for hauling recycling education materials to hundreds of Whatcom County school classrooms.

Visit our Field Services pages to get a free bid from our Pick-upSalvage Strip-Out, and Green Demolition “Deconstruction” Services

Check out this great examples of alternative transportation in the construction industry with local remodelers, A-1 Builders, in Bellingham, commuting to a major remodel job site via bicycle. Read the article on page 16 of American Bicyclist.

Posted in: Green business, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Striking Salvage Gold in Own Backyard – Notes from the Field

by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew Member

Working on The RE Store’s field crew is a lot like digging for buried treasure. It’s a dirty, dusty, splintery business, and it’s often done at a fever pitch. While we travel to many exotic locales in our never-ending quest for architectural gold, there’s nothing better than striking it rich in our very own backyard.

This September, we unearthed a treasure trove of vertical grain Douglas fir tongue-and-groove flooring just blocks away from our Ballard store location. It was buried deep under a musty layer of avocado green shag carpeting. Thankfully, the previous owner saw past the luxurious fad of that deep pile rug and didn’t bother to tack it down. This single visionary action left the fir beneath it in as good-as-it-gets condition. Eternally thankful, we set to work with our trusty Burke bars in hand (top left in image above).

Unlike today’s wood flooring, which is typically installed with the benefit of pneumatic nail guns, this stuff was done ye old-fashioned way. Imagine if you will, a carpenter setting each nail in each board by hand with a hammer. Every time we pull up a floor of this vintage we give thanks that we weren’t the ones who had to install it. However, removing fir flooring is no picnic either.

Flooring of this type is nailed through the tongue when installed, and it must be removed by prying at each nail from the tongue side. Fir is a soft wood that often becomes brittle with age, so special care must be taken to avoid breaking the tongue upon removal. Take it from someone who knows, breaking the tongue renders the piece unusable again as flooring. Listening to the sound that the board makes during removal is actually one of the best indicators of whether or not it will come out intact. The more screeching nail sounds the better.

After listening to the soothing sounds of the fir floor, we moved on to unearth a number of other treasures from the Ballard house, including: cast iron pedestal sinks, divided light windows, cedar fence boards, and even some Volkswagen Beetle windshields. While our mission is to salvage reusable building materials, we’re always on the hunt for re-purposeable treasures to bring to you, the RE Store supporter. This time around, we managed to dig up pieces of Ballard, which we hope have found new homes by now. The VW windshields, however, are still available as of this writing; please inquire at The RE Store in Seattle for more information.

And remember to give us a call to schedule a free pick up from your renovation or project!  More info here

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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The Salvage Path – a Side Yard of Repurposed Goods

James Taylor  has been with The RE Store’s Seattle field crew for over a decade now, helping to fill the stores with artfully removed and carefully preserved salvaged materials.  But as a self-avowed packrat (in recovery) and homeowner, he also has many pieces that have gone home with him – many still waiting to become projects too someday.   His side yard is one of those projects that will perhaps constantly evolve as he finds new treasures to add, but it a such a great spot of salvage inspiration and creativity – that we just had to share.

Literally almost every element of this eclectic and tranquil garden is salvage material.  As you can imagine, James does get a first look at almost all the materials that come into the store via our free salvage pick up services – and over time this has culminated in a garden full of treasures.  The pathway and edging (above, left) was created from Seattle brick and cobble stones – even the sand used for setting the brick was salvaged from a former concrete-counter maker neighbor of The RE Store, Dog Paw.  The weather vane (above, right) was taken from a job we did with King County removing houses in a floodplain.

The planters are all components that have had former lives as wash basin or a mop sink (above left and right) – items that were dropped off at the store from folks that had already used these items as something other than their original tasks – giving them 3 or more lives at least (now that is the kind of re-use commitment we like to see!).  And a stone whose former role was as an address marker, turned on its side (above, center) makes for a perfect seat in the center of this garden to take it all in.

Every last detail has a salvaged past – from the hose stand-offs made out of andirons (that someone made out of railroad track – not pictured) and homemade targets (above, left) to a bench created from sandstone pulled from a retaining wall in the Denny Regrade, piled with bocce balls and shot-puts salvaged from a high school job.

A creative fellow for sure – he has recently added the title of Designer/Builder for our Seattle REvision Division to his role – giving him the license to create the objects for places beyond just his yard as he plucks material from the jaws of the landfill.  Come check out some of his recent creations!

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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