Denver Architectural Salvage in 2020
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
It All Started with Architectural Salvage, Inc
My exploration of architectural salvage items in Denver started in 2008, when we left our home at the Cornwall Apartments and started restoring our diamond-in-the-rough Denver Square. After a long day picking up Craigslist finds and scouring estate sales, I stumbled across Betsy Werhane's and Roger Johnson's Architectural Salvage, Inc on North Colorado Blvd.
When I first walked through those huge, sliding barn doors (back before they were trendy), I was in awe. There was a porch roof from an old Victorian house. There were clawfoot bathtubs. There were amazing stained glass windows. There were rows upon rows upon rows of of glass cases and walls of pegboard housing antique door and window hardware.
At the time, it was the only place to find so many architectural salvage treasures in a single place that didn't involve searching through an outside lot. And with their dedication to a great retail shopping experience, they made old stuff cool and accessible. There was none of the pretentiousness of a high-end antique store and none of the grit of a flea market find. There were only ever smiles from Betsy and Roger, and a series of helpful hints for novice homeowners.
Many of our antique air registers and missing door hardware were sourced from there. Heck, we even sold a piece or two back to them after finding some mismatched metalwork in our basement.
After unsuccessfully searching for a buyer for their business, they eventually move to a smaller space with a loading dock further east on I-70 before retiring and liquidating their inventory. We were in the throes of baby rearing and sadly missed their departure.
But where does that leave Denver homeowners in 2020 looking to find their own architectural salvage items for their home restoration projects?
While I am by no means an authority, in my sourcing trips I have found that many stores are starting to specialize their inventories and offerings. Before you spend hours scouring eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, here are some great local places to check out:
Traditional Architectural Salvage -- Doors, Windows, Hardware
1. Queen City Architectural Salvage
Queen City Architectural Salvage is the granddaddy of the bunch and truly has it all. There's a loaded down tractor-trailer filled with antique lighting. There's a back lean-to filled with antique doors. There are two early 1900s homes chock full of stained glass, door hardware, and an antique back bar. There are countless plumbing fixtures, old cars, door sidelights, wrought iron fencing panels, and pieces of farm and carnival equipment dotting the yard.
Depending on the day, it may be challenging to get the guys to help you find something specific. But as long as you don't mind taking your time, are up to searching without an agenda, and are okay getting a bit dirty, it's a great place to find an inspirational piece or two that can set the tone for your home restoration.
2. Salvage Design Center
A relative new kid on the scene, Salvage Design Center is like the industrial modern version of a traditional salvage store. They have a great selection of reclaimed lumber: floorboards from train boxcars and bowling alleys, beetle kill pine, and more. I was in there the other day to find the right sash weights and antique replacement pulleys to restore the wood window in my kitchen. They even pulled out an old scale to help me confirm that the weights were accurate.
Much like Architectural Salvage, Inc, their organization is wonderful -- cases of hardware near the front door, stained glass and interesting finds sprinkled in the front of the store, and old doors in the back. But in contrast, they are more focused on design than they are the historical components, which makes for fun shopping. They regularly host makers' fairs (called the Craftsman's Market) in the summer, and have an up-to-date inventory of some of their larger pieces on their website.
Updated Nov. 2021: Unfortunately Salvage Design Center is no longer in business and has auctioned off their inventory.
3. Eron Johnson Antiques
No list would be complete without Eron Johnson. They have some of the most interesting, authentic architectural salvage pieces around, especially large scale items such as wrought iron doors, mahogany staircases, and rococo mirrors. I visited their storefront yesterday and was in awe, as always. Some of their newest finds include wrought iron balconies, reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
That authenticity and selection, however, can come with a price. Many one-of-a-kind items run into the thousands, if not, tens of thousands of dollars. That said, they often have more affordable smaller scale items -- doors, sconces, door hardware -- that pack a lot of punch at budget-friendly prices.
For truly unique, ready-to-install architectural finds, Eron Johnson cannot be topped.
Call (720) 214-4869 -- appointment only!
Flying under the radar on most searches, save one local mention in 5280, Unassimilated has some of the most diverse and comprehensive architectural salvage items. I first stumbled across this storefront during a local Curtis Park walking tour a couple of summers ago. One of my favorite coffee shops, Whittier Cafe, was conducting an Ethiopian coffee ceremony just down the street.
Update: I finally connected with Michael Ritchie, the proprietor, and got a full tour of his several (!) houses and yards full of salvaged items -- art deco light fixtures and dining room doors from the Oxford Hotel, mahogany doors from France, and much, much more. This may be my new favorite place in Denver.
Furniture-First Architectural Salvage
1. Rare Finds Warehouse
Just south of I-70 near the now-defunct second home of Architectural Salvage, Inc, Rare Finds has made a name for itself by sourcing some of the most amazing furniture pieces and doors from around the world. Whether you are looking for a distressed teak table, a British Colonial armoire, or a statement entry door, they have a huge selection at very reasonable price points and they always seem to be having some sort of sale. Their selection of knickknacks and accent pieces are also on point -- they make the perfect gifts.
I've not made it down to their second location in Highlands Ranch yet, but it supposedly has an even larger selection of items.
2. South Platte Trading Company
Similar in style to Rare Finds, South Platte Trading Company sourcing interesting pieces from around the world. They opened back in February, and their stated mission is to make "vintage furnishings and reclaimed materials...accessible to everyone." I can get behind that!
Due to COVID I haven't been out sourcing in new places just yet, but I hope to make it to S. Platte soon!
And this list of furniture-first architectural salvage stores doesn't even begin to cover the hundreds of wonderful antique stores across the metro area like the Brass Armadillo and the stores in Antique Row on South Broadway that often have smaller statement pieces.
Specialized Architectural Salvage Stores
While it seems that broad-scale salvage stores may be a thing of the past, there are wonderful specialty players in town. These stores probably merit a whole post on their own (someday!), but for now, here are some of my other favorite places to salvage items:
Salvage and Reclaimed Lumber
McPhee & McGinnity (It's now closed, but it sounds like they may make a comeback at some point!)
Tabor Lumber (replacing Stark Lumber further South, for reproduction millwork)
Antique Plumbing Fixtures
Do It Urself Plumbing (They used to have a wonderful antique "boneyard", but they just sold the land on Brighton Blvd. so they're clearancing off everything. The Hill family is going to wait until after COVID to decide to re-open in a new location. Don't miss your chance to grab one of their last re-enameled farmhouse sinks!)
Old Bricks and Masonry
Lucky Salvage Finds at Resale Stores
But there are also those other days that you just live for the hunt. If you are feeling lucky, I've occasionally found vintage pieces -- mainly antique furniture and plumbing fixtures -- at some of these places: