Salvage Barn fair April 19 celebrates sustainability


Wood planking, cornices, doors, windows, rafters, rusty radiators, clawfoot bathtubs. These items aren’t stocked on most store shelves.

At Salvage Barn in Iowa City, though, most of the inventory is at least 50 years old. Signs of wear and years is the rule, not the exception.

Beneath the peeling paint and rust — or in some cases because of it — there’s inspiration, and not just for do-it-yourself types and contractors rehabbing older homes.

Perhaps fueled by Pinterest, the Salvage Barn, a warehouse specializing in historic architectural building materials operated by Friends of Historic Preservation, has seen more and more crafters digging through bins and rummaging through piles at the warehouse at the East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Blvd., Iowa City.

Rusty, dusty or musty, they wanted it. Who can ignore bins heaped with items for 25 to 50 cents each?

They turned old windows into picture frames for graduation gifts, dresser drawers into flower planters, an old sink into a potting table and a table from siding and rafters.

With a little elbow grease, nothing is too old or damaged to turn into something beautiful, says Executive Director Alicia Trimble.

That mantra will be on display Saturday at the Salvage Barn and Friends of Historic Preservation’s first reuse-themed craft fair “Craft Your Environment.”

The event promotes the mission of the barn — sustainable use of materials — by showcasing the work of 30 artists and crafters from the region who reuse, repurpose and restore items that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Items for sale will include yard art, home decor, totebags, bottle art, bird houses, lamps and other items made from recycled and reclaimed materials. Activitities include free workshops on composting, gardening, bike maintenance and crafting. There also will be organic and heirloom seed giveaways, tours of the native prairie garden, Recycling Relays for kids and local food.

The fair is a first-time event for the barn, but they regularly host free workshops. Earlier this month, the Iowa City Window and Door Company held class on historic wood windows, storm sashes and screens. Homeowners learned the how to replace stiles and rails, use glass putty, glaze and about the and functional components windows, such as pulleys, ropes and weights.

“Most people don’t realize that the older windows in historic homes are better and more energy efficient than many replacement windows,” says Mark McCallum, president of Friends of Historic Preservation. “If you think about it, windows in a historic home many have already served you well for a hundred years and you are not likely to get that kind of guarantee out of many newer manufactured windows. However, it is natural after 100 years that windows may need a little TLC to get them back up to their original condition. That can be done for a tiny fraction on the cost of replacing windows.”

The barn has been a resource for rennovation and restoration for more than 20 years. They also maintain a tool library for members who pay a $25 annual fee.

The staff and board doesn’t just talk the talk, either. When money was tight and they were moving into a new building, they did what they had been telling others to do: Repurpose. They used some of their more than 300 old doors to finish the building’s walls.

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