Saved Through Deconstruction—Lost Through Negligence

By Ted Reiff

Without proper documentation, locating the historic materials salvaged from demolition/deconstruction projects can be a real shell game. Too often, it seems, artifacts are tucked away, out of sight, out of mind, subject to gradual decay and eventual loss.

Forty–five years ago, pieces of the iron facade of the Bogardus Building were salvaged and stored on a secure city lot, prior to the building's demolition. Three years later, after two–thirds of the saved panels were stolen, the balance was moved to a "secret location." Following another theft, so little was left that reuse, or adaptive reuse, was impossible.

Two years after the 2014 demolition of the American Folk Art Museum in New York, and the promise to preserve and store "at least a portion" of its copper and bronze facade, whatever was saved is still in storage. The longer it stays there, the more vulnerable it is to neglect, vandalism or theft.

During the renovation of the Terminal Tower in Cleveland in the 1980s, a large 1930s mural went missing. I have contacted the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Western Reserve Historical Society, and no one I spoke with knows where it is. A more recent mural from the 1960s, the Ferro Mural, is alive and well, but the earlier one created immediately after the building's completion is no longer viewable, if it exists at all.

About 10 years ago, San Francisco City College hired TRP to write deconstruction specifications for the men's and women's gymnasiums at its Ocean View campus. The buildings were constructed in the early 1930s and were probably part of the WPA. My report and specifications addressed the removal, salvage and handling of the gym flooring, lockers, lighting, bleachers, doors, glass block walls and framing lumber. In particular I spent a great deal of time describing how to remove and crate three concrete relief sculptures installed over the entry doors.

The reliefs were designed and created by San Francisco artist Sargent Johnson ( To discover the fate of these reliefs, I spoke with facilities personnel at the college, the Sargent Johnson Gallery in San Francisco. and local art historians and consultants — all to no avail.

In order to promote better tracking of valuable artifacts in the future, TRP has developed five simple preservation standards:

  1. When specific historical elements of a building are to be preserved, removal should be accomplished by professionals who understand their construction and design.
  2. Once removed, historical pieces should be protected from physical damage caused by improper handling or weather.
  3. How a historical element will be reused should be specified, and placement completed, as quickly as possible.
  4. If immediate reuse is not possible, proper storage must be arranged.
  5. In all cases, the chain of custody should be clearly documented so that interested parties can learn where historic elements are located and who is responsible for them.


Specials of the Month

At the Oakland warehouse we are featuring appliances and single cabinets. Receive 25% off the price of any appliance or single cabinet (no sets) in the warehouse through July 31.
The ReUse People Specials
The Los Angeles warehouse is featuring doors and windows. Purchase one door at the regular price and receive a second door of equal or lesser value, FREE, plus 25% off the price of any window in the warehouse. Offer good through July 31.
The ReUse People Specials

New Inventory

The Oakland warehouse has received a windfall of NEW hardware from a store closeout — nails, Simpson ties, bolts, you name it!


New inventory at the Los Angeles warehouse includes a modern-style concrete fountain, a porcelain farmer’s sink, and a sleek set of white lacquer upper cabinets.

The ReUse People Specials The ReUse People Specials The ReUse People Specials

Location and Contact Information

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Oakland
9235 San Leandro Street
Oakland, CA  94603
(510) 383-1983; toll-free 888-588-9490
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-6:00 Closed Sunday

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Los Angeles
3015 Dolores Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00; Sat 10:00-4:00

Please visit our partnering warehouses:

The ReUse Warehouse
1400 East Geer Street
Durham, NC 27704
(919) 219-4913
Hours: Mon-Fri, 2:00-6:00; Sat, 9:30-5:00

Second Chance Building Materials Center
1423 West Grove Street
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 331-2707
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:00-6:00; Sun, 12:00-5:00

Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity
7025 Hwy 82
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-7733
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00-5:30; Sat, 10:00-5:00; Sun, 11:00-4:00

Stardust Building Supply
3901 E. Thunderbird Road
Phoenix, AZ 85032
(602) 459-9803
Hours: Mon-Sat, 8:00-6:00; Sun, 10:00-4:00

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt Lake Valley,
1276 South 500 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 263-0136
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm; closed Sunday

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Summit & Wasatch Counties
6280 N. Silver Creek Drive, Silver Summit, UT
(435) 487-9015
Hours: Wed-Sat 10:00-6:00; closed Sunday

Recycle Utah
1951 Woodbine Way Park City, UT 84060
(435) 649-9698
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:00-5:30; Sun 10:00-4:00

Reuse Depot
50 West Madison
Maywood, IL 60153
(708) 223-0502
Hours: Wed-Mon 10:00-6:00p; Closed Tuesdays

New England Reuse
400 Sackett Point Rd
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 230-2638
Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00p; Saturday 9:00-1:00p

::Login::   Website by The ReUse People.