Doors of Christmas Past evokes bygone era

Display runs through December at Sycamore Mall in Iowa City

  • Photo

IOWA CITY – Doors to the past have opened at Sycamore Mall.

An artistic interpretation of doors from the Salvage Barn in Iowa City, called Doors of Christmas Past, is making an impression on visitors who recall the bygone eras represented in the display.

“It’s like a time capsule,” said Judy Nyren, a volunteer for Friends of Historic Preservation who designed the display. “It just makes you think about a different time.”

Nyren pointed to a screen door that represents the 1930s.

Visitors have commented on the trying times Iowans experienced during the Depression, evoked by the screen door and memorabilia surrounding it.

Each time period includes items that represent the era, such as newspapers from World War II, vintage clothes from the Roaring Twenties and an Etch A Sketch and other toys from the 1960s.

Nyren, a retired children’s ministry coordinator, provided the memorabilia from her own collections, which includes three decades of staging Christmas plays.

The display, which is free to view, is open on Saturdays and Sundays and for special events during regular mall hours through Dec. 23.

Alicia Trimble, executive director of Friends of Historic Preservation, said the idea was created to raise awareness about the group and its Salvage Barn, an architectural salvage warehouse that focuses on recycling historic house parts and landfill diversion.

The Salvage Barn opened in March at its current site at the East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Blvd. SE.

Items sold at the Salvage Barn are rescued from buildings before demolition or donated from other buildings.

At least 350 doors are available at the Salvage Barn, ranging in price from $40 to $500.

The doors and furniture in the display, which begins with a stable door to represent Iowa City settlement in the 1840s, also are for sale.

At least one – a numbered door from a University of Iowa office – has been spoken for, Trimble said.

“They’re built solid,” she said, citing the hefty weight of a pocket door used for the Victorian Christmas. “They’re all made of real wood.”

As are other items at the Salvage Barn, the doors are all at least 50 years old, which is why the display ends during the 1960s.

The final segment portrays craft ideas to spur visitors’ imaginations on reusing old objects, such as a louvered door.

“It’s kind of the idea that everything old is new again,” Nyren said.



  • Doors of Christmas Past is open weekends through Dec. 23
  • The display is free to view
  • Sycamore Mall (the former Bonnie’s Toys location) 1660 Sycamore St., Iowa City.
  • Groups can set up a tour by calling (319) 351-6913.
  • Donations will fund a heating system at the new Salvage Barn site, 2401 Scott Blvd. SE.


Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.