Field Trip: Mississippi Rebuilding Center

For today’s Field Trip, I’m taking you to a place that’s in some ways the opposite of the very well-curated Beam & Anchor. The Mississippi ReBuilding Center is probably the one of the least photogenic, most useful places I’ll feature here. They’re a non-profit that accepts donations of reusable building materials, and sells them to the community for much less than retail. And they offer deconstruction services, which means instead of tearing down a building and throwing the materials in a landfill, the material is removed by hand and salvaged for reuse.

My husband and I own a house built in 1912, and having drilled into wood that’s over a hundred years old, I can tell you that it’s completely different than wood you can buy in a lumberyard today. It’s way harder, because the wood was old-growth lumber that just isn’t available any more. The thought of a house built with trees that took 100 years to grow, that were cut down and then built into a house 100 years ago, and it’s now being torn down and just thrown in the landfill, makes me mad and sad. But it’s happening all the time, and anything we can do to prevent that kind of waste is essential. So I’m happy to support this place in any way I can.

If you’re the owner of an old fixer-upper in Portland, this place is a resource you need to know about. Even if you’re not a homeowner, but you’re into DIY projects, you can definitely find useful materials and tools here. Environmentally-responsible, plus cheaper than buying new? Count me in.

I often find materials for projects here, but I sometimes hesitate to blog about them, since I can’t recommend where to find identical materials to re-create the outcome. Next week, though, I’ll share a project I made with something I found here.

The building itself is a big, artsy warehouse on the south end of bustling Mississippi Avenue. The upper parts of the walls are made of reclaimed windows, and there are manmade trees in the entryway. It’s pretty recognizable.
Mississippi ReBuilding Center


rebuilding 3Why aren’t modern power tools this pretty?

One whole side of the building is devoted to doors and windows. The workmanship and quality of the old wooden doors is astounding, even if many of them need some restoration. They have newer doors, too, but it’s kind of a needle-in-a-haystack situation if you need a door of a specific size.

Mississippi ReBuilding CenterBeautiful old wooden doors. Isn’t that pink one dreamy?

There’s also a big section of sinks, tubs, and toilets. I hope to find some old sinks here when we make over our bathrooms someday.

Mississippi ReBuilding Center

Unless it’s something common that they always seem to have on hand, you can’t really come here with a very specific item in mind. If you need porcelain light sockets or switchplate covers or pegboard you’ll probably be in luck, but for most things, it’s a treasure hunt. And that means that some days you’ll find something awesome and unexpected, and other days you’ll go home empty-handed. That’s part of the fun, as far as I’m concerned. I keep a list of measurements and things I’m looking for in my phone, so if I see something that might fit the bill, I can check my measurements.

Mississippi ReBuilding CenterSee? Piles of pegboard.

Things I’ve bought here: Reclaimed wood boards of many sizes, wooden dowels, door hardware galore, tile, a large decorative wooden post, a wall-mounted soap dish, light fixtures, pegboard, random screws, bolts, and other hardware.

Mississippi ReBuilding CenterThese are mortise-locks, which are common on old doors.

Things I’ve made with stuff I’ve bought here: A cat scratching post, reclaimed wood shelves, tile coasters, pegboard jewelry storage.

One of the parts of coming here that I really like is that sometimes it helps jolt my creativity. For example, I have no idea what I’d do with these colorful plastic handles, but it’s fun to try to think up uses.

rebuilding 8

Mississippi ReBuilding CenterPastel lightshades that might be perfect for your grandma’s bathroom. The look is due for a revival any day now.

Although it may look chaotic, they’ve actually really improved the organization lately (I think it was a New Year’s resolution).

Mississippi ReBuilding Center

If you’re lucky, you might spot the store cat. She’s usually sleeping near the sinks. Signs claim that she scratches, and she may, but she’s only ever licked me.

Things I’ve seen here: Giant coils of rope, thicker than my legs, that came from river tugboats. Brand new fixtures from Rejuvenation, still in the box. Piles of marble tile. Industrial drinking fountains. Beautiful old mantels, sinks, and bathtubs.

Mississippi ReBuilding Center Makes me wish I had a fireplace that needed a mantel.

If you go to the back of the building, towards the alley, you may think you’ve reached an employees-only area. But keep going, across the alley, and you’ll find the wood. So much wood.

Mississippi ReBuilding Center

A couple of years ago, we bought old Douglas Fir boards here that we used to make bookshelves. I think that was the first time I bought materials here, and I was a bit intimidated by the wood area, but when we told one of the employees what we were looking for, he was really helpful.

pipe shelves These shelves are tricky to photograph, since they’re actually 11 feet long. So long that we had to put the boards in through a window, and assemble them in the room. They hold a lot of books and media!

I haven’t been afraid of the wood section since we bought the wood for our shelves, but there are definitely piles of stuff that I can’t identify.

Mississippi ReBuilding Center

Mississippi ReBuilding Center

I come here a lot, so much so that some of the regular employees here recognize me. Even if you’ve never been in before, the kind employees and volunteers here will go out of their way to help you if you ask. Ella Rose, who’s usually reigning over the register, is always a delight to chat with.

The Mississippi ReBuilding Center is at 3625 N. Mississippi Ave, and is open Monday – Friday 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 9AM – 5PM, and Sunday 10AM – 5PM. You can follow them on Twitter @ReBuildingCtr to see some of the newly-arrived treasures.

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8 thoughts on “Field Trip: Mississippi Rebuilding Center

  1. Rachel, I love stores like this. It is so much fun to look around and see what you might find that can be useful or decorative. I want some of those pegboards. Be sure to tell me what you end up doing with all those handles. I would love to see those in person, they have sparked my interest. Pat S

  2. Your shelves are gorgeous! We have a similar store here in town called the ReStore and I love cruising around seeing what’s new. They sometimes have things from high schools like locker bins, flooring and the like. My favorite find was a large letter board from the federal building that we have repurposed…

    I’m loving your posts as usual!

    • Tammy, thank you! Is it a Habitat from Humanity ReStore? We have a couple of those, too, though I haven’t visited much only because they’re not as close. But I love reclaimed school stuff! If I were you I’d have to keep myself from buying too many school lockers. That letter board sounds super cool! What are you using it for?

  3. I live nearby but never make it to the cool places you have featured. Not for lack of desire but time and clearly lack of insight as to what I might find. I mean, re-used pegboards galore – yes! I absolutely love all of these businesses and now I know how much more useful or enjoyable a visit will be I’m determined to visit them all! So happy I followed a link to your great little, local blog full of charm and creativity! Thank you and big, green ehugs!

    • Oh gosh, Christy, that’s so nice to hear! Thanks so much for letting me know you like what you’ve found here. That kind of encouragement is priceless. I hope you get to visit lots of new places around town. Hugs right back at ya 🙂

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