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.
Why 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.
Beautiful 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.
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.
See? 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.
These 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.
Pastel 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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