A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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One Building’s Trash

Is Another Home’s Treasure

By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor

Need a stained-glass window to make your foyer pop? How about a soapstone farmer’s sink to give your kitchen a vintage ambience, or crystal doorknobs to make a doorway shine?

Architectural Salvage Inc. in Exeter and Nor’east Architectural Antiques in South Hampton can set you up.

Architectural salvage is the reuse of architectural features once part of an old building and incorporating them into a new building or to refurbish an old building. It is a creative way to add interesting accents to your home, divert material from landfills and minimize the use of non-sustainable goods.

“Something that has character, age and tells a story can be worked into any room no matter the décor,” writes home decorator guru and writer Sacha Strebe in her blog, “MyDomaine,” when talking about the latest trends in interior decoration.

In her article, she said, “there are so many good vintage, antique … pieces that are begging for a new life. Rather than grabbing something new, do a bit of digging online, at the flea market or your local architectural salvage place to see what they might have.”

Walking through the warehouses at Nor’east Architectural Antiques is a bit of a scavenger hunt. You never know what you might find. Its massive warehouse on Exeter Street in South Hampton stocks architectural salvage and antique building materials from 1700 to 1940, described on the company’s website as “reclaimed, environmentally friendly, sustainable green building products.”

There’s a lot to look at. There are vintage windows of all sizes and styles, massive wheeled factory tables, ceramic, clawed tubs, dozens and dozens of doors made of mahogany, oak and pine in all shapes, sizes and time periods. There is enough oak and marble mantles to fit out Mad Ludwig’s castle.

Brass and cast-iron andirons, locksets and doorknobs made of wood, mineral and glass. Winding and straight staircases, carved newel posts, chandeliers and other ornate and functional lights. Wrought-iron gates and grates, reclaimed brick and granite, vintage bathtubs and sinks of all shapes and sizes. Butcher block tables, even a general store-sized coffee mill.

It’s history at every turn in the form of practical, everyday objects like the old-school office doors of from state legislators’ offices.

“We work closely with homeowners, designers and architects in the selection of those items into new construction, renovations, historic restorations and commercial projects,” according the company’s website.

Owner John H. Isgur began the business after years in construction and the wholesale HVAC business. Craving a change in life, he entered the salvage business by ripping items out of a Boston brownstone. He stored the material in his garage before selling them at a local flea market.

He then operated a store in Amesbury, Mass., before moving to a 40,000-square-foot warehouse in South Hampton.

On June 3, 2008, a fire broke out in the warehouse. It soon grew to six alarms and firefighters from 22 towns responded. The building was destroyed, and store cats Lilly, Jack and Caesar died in the fire.

Isgur salvaged what he could, rebuilt the structure and reopened in 2009. The new facility draws decorators from throughout the country as well as those who do their shopping via the Internet at noreast1.com.

Architectural Salvage Inc. on Mill Street in Exeter has been doing business at its 6,000-square-foot warehouse beside the railroad tracks in Exeter for more than a decade. The company deals in antique house parts from the 1940s back to the 1700s, from the smallest hardware to whole buildings.

They deal in all manner of antique house parts: plumbing, antique doors, hardware, newel posts, mantles, beams, floors, window sashes and more, most dating from earlier than 1940. They buy and sell salvage ranging from individual items to entire houses.

Inside the ancient barn is an upscale rummage sale of wainscoting, deconstructed window, doors, soapstone sinks, barn boards and planks, lighting, doors, doors and more doors, even a 19th- century, 16-by-33-foot building frame from the Moses Johnson House in Hampstead.

The 61st annual New Hampshire Antiques Show

will be held at the Manchester Downtown Hotel (formerly the Radisson) in Manchester from Aug. 9-11. It’s the annual showcase of the New Hampshire Antique Dealers Association and is conducted by volunteers.

This year’s show features 67 antique dealers displaying country and formal antique furniture, clocks, folk art, books, painting, artwork and more utilitarian items. The show was once described by Maine Antique Digest as “the best show of its kind in New England.”

If you want to take a road trip and sniff out the bargains yourself, the Antique Alley in Northwood is New England’s oldest antique shopping district with more than 500 dealers along Route 4 in in Northwood, Lee, Epsom and Chichester. It’s the same route followed by the Marquis de Lafayette on his triumphant post-revolutionary war tour from Dover to Concord in 1825.

The smart money stops in at Johnson’s Seafood, Steak and Dairy Bar in Northwood for a lobster roll and ice cream.

Antique Alley is not the only game in town – newhampshireantiquetrail.com has a listing of 58 antique shops throughout the state.