I've always wondered if walls really could talk, what my 90-year-old house might have to say.
Over the years we have had to renovate and restore many things in our home. Some projects were not so bad, while others probably left my home wanting to thank me for giving it a makeover. One of those times was when I stripped wallpaper from the half bath. Seven layers later, I could actually pinpoint each decade just from the wallpaper prints. The '70s look was not a pleasant one.
Fort Wayne's neighborhoods are filled with historic homes whose walls can tell some interesting stories. And it's not only the walls, but the items that make a home, well, a home. Staircases that have been walked by generations of residents. Oak entryways or heavy wooden doors that have been entered or exited hundreds of times. Ornate fixtures or handcrafted pieces that have seen special events and family memories.
Chuck Springer makes it his business to know about these items. Inside his business at 1514 St. Joseph Blvd. are hundreds of years of history waiting to be explored and reused again.
Springer and his wife, Lyndsey, own Reclaimed Fort Wayne. It is a new name and new location for what was the Wood Shack, which was founded as an architectural salvage company many years ago. Now the Springers are continuing the saving and preserving of pieces and parts of the past.
Springer says the opportunity to take over the Wood Shack fell into the couple's lap. He was working full time at a bank and found out that the building that contained the Wood Shack had been bought and there were plans for other uses for the space. The Springers were able to buy the contents inside the Wood Shack and began their own expansion of the historic salvage business. They moved to their new location about a year ago.
“I've always been into old things,” says Chuck Springer, who also is an artist and uses old car parts in his art. He and his wife, also an artist, have turned part of the building into an art studio for artists to rent and use. Their insurance company, Granville Insurance, is also located in the building.
Springer says he likes to focus on pre-1960s architectural and mid-century items. The shop is filled with such items as beveled glass windows, doors of all sizes, pedestal sinks, mirrors, fireplaces, iron and steel fencing and claw-foot tubs, as well as local goods and custom furniture. It truly is a renovator or restorer's paradise.
Springer gets many of his items from the demolition of homes. However, he says these days there isn't a lot of demo work, especially as more people are doing restoration and renovations.
Most of the demolitions are outside the area, in such places as Wabash and Ohio, Springer says. He tries to limit travel to no more than two hours from Fort Wayne.
He does get notified by contractors of demolitions, but he also has homeowners reach out to him about coming to see what items he might be interested in buying.
And he has found a lot of interesting things over the years. The most memorable was a bunch of old family letters that were tucked behind a wall. He couldn't very well sell those at his business, so he gave them back to the family.
Springer says he is always amazed at the different variations of door hardware. The store is filled with old locks, doorknobs and keys of all shapes, sizes and colors. “That's what makes it fun,” Springer says. “Nothing is cookie cutter” in older homes.
Springer shakes his head about the things that people paint over in older homes. Oftentimes the items he brings back to his store need to be cleaned up and worked on to uncover what they originally looked like.
He says the quality of older homes can't be reproduced. Springer and his wife live in a 1920 home with their two boys.
Living in an old home helps Springer understand the importance of rescuing these old items that can't be found in your local big box hardware store. He's working on creating an inventory on his website, but there are so many items that it may take him a while.
But in the meantime, it gives people a reason to stop by and get lost in history – even if it is old doors and windows.
Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at email@example.com or call 461-8304.