A Very Brief History Of The Architectural Salvage Industry

Photos property of Uniquities

As this is our very first blog on our new website, and the fact that we have been architectural antique dealers since 1992, I thought it may be interesting to share how the trade of salvaging has evolved through the ages.

The idea of using salvaged building materials can be traced back thousands of years. The Arch of Constantine, which was built in 315 A.D., was constructed with pieces taken from the 1st Century, Arch of Trajan.

Salvaged marble and travertine from the Roman Coliseum was used to build part of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Norman stone masons used Roman bricks and stone to complete their churches and castles.

During the 18th Century young aristocratic Englishmen travelled to the ancient cities of Europe. Known as the “Grand Tour”, its purpose was to teach young men about art and history. Enamoured with what they saw, they brought back statues, columns, frescos, and stone as souvenirs to incorporate into their own homes. Perhaps the most famous of these travellers was the 7th Earl of Elgin who helped himself to some pretty important Marbles from the Parthenon.

It was post 2nd World War rebuilding and the inner city “regeneration programme” of the 1950s that truly brought about the emergence of the architectural antiques trade. Grand country houses had been requisitioned by the government to be used as hospitals and barracks. After the war, these homes were returned to their owners in need of pricey repairs. Unable to afford the renovations, they sold off the fireplaces, paneling, stone, etc and the homes were demolished.

The regeneration programmes of the 1950s brought about the demolition of thousands of Georgian and Victorian houses. Antique dealers saw opportunity to save important historical pieces and opened up warehouses to stock their “treasure”.

And so was born Uniquities and the modern day architectural antique salvage twitchers!

The photos above show our 19th Century building salvage of stone, bricks, slate, windows and doors from redundant buildings in the UK being reused in new builds in Alberta, Canada.

- Julia Shantz

Arch of Trajan, Arch of Constantine, Roman Colesseum,    St. Peter’s Basilica & The Elgin Marbles at the British Museum

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia


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