Row houses have long been a staple in East Coast cities since early British settlement. But while other cities built these iconic row houses by the hundreds, Baltimore built them by the thousands.
Adaptability has been the key to survival for our city’s oldest house style. That’s why many residential redevelopment companies have kept busy remodeling them. While each row house is being restored on the inside, Sandtown Millworks is outside in the dumpster collecting hidden gems many construction workers are throwing away.
For a long time, lumber from vacant homes went to landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities.
Now, companies like Sandtown Millworks salvage everything from the joists that hold up the floors to the roof boards from under the tar roof. They then haul the lumber to their woodshop in Baltimore and use it to build their unique furniture.
Each piece that Sandtown creates comes from a bit of history and a lot of labor. Simply popping out the nails can be a full-time gig in itself. Each board of wood can have about 50 nails in need of removal!
Sandtown also has worked with wood salvaged from some pretty well-known buildings including the Admiral’s Cup, a longtime Fells Point bar that reopened in 2012.
Pieces of furniture available include:
- Dining tables, benches, and sideboards
- Coffee and end tables
- TV, media, and storage consoles
- Desks and bookshelves
- Beds and bedroom furniture
- Barn doors
Demand for old-growth wood continues to grow, even as the supply remains locked in decades-old houses and factories scattered throughout Baltimore and other cities. Our city is even identifying houses that have reclaimable material and putting them under what’s called a deconstruction contract.
In March 2014, Baltimore Housing awarded a contract to Humanim, a nonprofit workforce development organization, to dismantle several dozen houses and salvage the materials for reuse by taking apart the buildings piece by piece.
Yes, this deconstruction is more expensive and a bit slower than if you were to just simply knock down an old house, but in the long run this process does a lot of good. It creates more jobs. It’s better for the environment. And let’s be honest, it helps make some pretty cool furniture.
During the 18-month initiative, Humanim salvaged nearly 130,000 board feet of lumber from 126 buildings, said Jeff Carroll, vice president at Humanim.
“I’m pretty optimistic about the progress that has been made,” he said.
So if your home is begging for a feature piece with original nail holes, nicks, saw marks, and hundreds of years of history, make sure to check out the Sandtown website.