You love your old house --- it has charm, it has character, it has significance. But you don't love it when, say, your antique doorknob breaks off and the only replacement options at Home Depot are slick, modern numbers that scream "2006" rather than "1916."
Finding period-specific replacement parts for your historic home requires a little extra effort. But to ensure that your old house continues to look like one, it's certainly worth it. Below is a list of some good places to start looking for replacement parts or old-fashioned décor. Some offer authentic salvaged parts, but most deal in period reproductions. Note that this is in no way a comprehensive guide; think of it as a primer on your road to prime hardware.
540 South Avenue
For many the go-to spot for hardware and more for pre-1940 homes, Historic Houseparts was originally founded in 1980 by Karen and Mark Caulfield, who wisely keyed in to the growing home-improvement/restoration trend taking hold across the country. In 1995 the couple planned to close the store until regular customers Christina Jones and Jim Wolff offered to buy the shop. The two took over and, thanks to the booming catalogue and website business, have dramatically expanded the business on a national level. (Jones estimates that 60 percent of sales come from out of the area, with recent shipments going as far as Japan.) Over the past four years the business has also developed its own line of reproduction hardware "for people who need quantities of hard-to-find antique hardware, which can be cost prohibitive," Jones says.
But the real treat is walking into Houseparts' jam-packed showroom, with baskets full of doorknobs, lamps hanging from the ceiling, and bathtubs spilling into the yard. Much of the inventory is from 1870 to 1920, with items from woodwork to plumbing to windows.
Some of the authentically antique pieces come from salvage jobs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, and people bring in different items every day, Jones says. She adds that she's always looking for more pre-1940s house parts to add to the inventory.
1473 East Main Street
ReHouse just opened its warehouse on East Main Street last June, but the business has been running for about three years. After Sally Kamprath's kids went away to college, she decided she needed something new to focus on. And when she saw old, abandoned buildings getting ripped down --- contents and all --- she found her new calling: architectural salvage. Kamprath first focused on attending on-site auctions of neglected properties, but ultimately decided the best way to keep re-using what she took away was to open a retail space. "The point is to recycle as much as we can out of each property," she says. So far this year the ReHouse team has reclaimed materials from four houses.
Kamprath says that ReHouse offers an eclectic mix of items in various styles, ranging from historic homes to more modern pieces from the 1980s. A walk around the sprawling showroom proves her point, as the surprisingly well-organized space houses mantelpieces, ranges of wooden doors and windows, trim and stair rails, rows and rows of hardware, and even an entire 1950s kitchen, cabinets and all.
If you're looking for a particular item that ReHouse doesn't currently have in stock (new shipments come in all the time, Kamprath says), a "wish book" sits at the front of the register. If something comes in that might fit your needs you'll get a call, and may be able to save a little scratch in the process, she says.
Around the region
If you can't find what you need in Rochester, broaden your search a bit. Building Preservation Works (48 James Street, Homer, (607) 749-8889, www.preservationworks.com) specializes in antique hardware and lighting, recycled building materials, hardwood lumber and more. Significant Elements (212 Center Street, Ithaca, (607) 277-3450, www.historicithaca.com/significant_elem.htm) is a nonprofit architectural salvage program that operates in conjunction with the Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division, rescuing building materials that would otherwise go to the landfill. Check out Free Fridays, a monthly event where specific items are given away for absolutely nothing. Shaver Brothers (32 Perrine Street, Auburn, (800) 564-7206, www.shaverbrothers.com) also operates a salvage yard, but offers a woodshop for custom millwork and restoration.
On the magazine rack
The popularity of the home-improvement trend has spawned countless do-it-yourself magazines and books. A healthy subsection of those are devoted to the subject of restoring and living in older houses, including Old House Journal, Clem Labine's Period Homes,and Style 1900. The magazines offer helpful articles on upkeep and decorating ideas, plus ads for a variety of restoration vendors. If you're looking for catalogue-style books that focus solely on products, Van Dyke's Restorers and The Crown City Collection should fit the bill, with products from ornate gable ends to brass keyholes in their pages.
Surfing the Net
The Internet is good for more than just porn (kidding). Now you can get in touch with a quality blacksmith in Denver to create that wrought-iron gate you always wanted. For less specific requests, sites such as www.traditional-building.com allow you to search through a variety of house part vendors while www.arts-crafts.com/marketfeatures an extensive database of suppliers broken down by general topics (stained/leaded glass, textiles). Www.oldhouseweb.com and www.oldhousejournal.com sweeten the pot with how-to guides.