Colorful Bohemian Glass Used Many Techniques

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, March, 2005

Bohemian glass goblet, Seidenberg, Inc. 836 Broadway, New York, NY.

Once, old iron gates, fireplace mantels and bathroom fixtures were sent to salvage yards when the buildings that housed them were demolished. Not these days. Collectors and dealers have rediscovered them. Auction houses like Red Baron , in Atlanta specialize in them and specialty stores like Salvage One in Chicago offer three floors and an outdoor courtyard. At Metrolina Expo, a giant indoor-outdoor flea market , just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, late 19th century fences and early 20th century street lamps are among the offerings.


Some collectors look for salvage with a history. Prices depend on a variety of factors and range from a few dollars for door knobs to the high thousands for elaborate mantels.


At a recent Red Barron auction a carved, American Empire mantel from a Lake Shore Drive mansion in Chicago is expected to fetch from $18,000 to $25,000.


When it comes to strictly architectural artifacts, price can depend on if the architect is well-known and the piece can be attributed to him. And, what is  important to the individual collector. Names like Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright mean big bucks.


Chicago /Wilmette architect Walter Sobel doesn't consider himself a collector, yet he has used pieces from historical Chicago buildings to decorate his office. "It started back in the 50s, as a personal thing," he said. "When the U.S. District Courthouse on Jackson and Dearborn (Chicago) was scheduled for demolition, a friend, the late Judge Hubert Will, called and suggested we might walk through and see what pieces we could acquire.

We both decided on the bronze doorknobs and lock sets. We had them mounted as desk decorations. Sobel also purchased a section of the bronze railing that he used as sculpture. Over the years he has picked up other pieces to be used decoratively.


There is nothing new about architects designing not only the interior decorations from ceilings to moldings and furniture. Many furniture designers, such as Thomas Chippendale and Thomas Sheraton, also designed architectural ornaments for their clients. This included miniature staircases that are collected.


In the late 19th to early 20th centuries, many of America's newly rich hired architects to design their mansions with interiors in the Gothic, Tudor and Renaissance style. It was common for the architect to often supply entire paneled rooms, supposedly dating from those early periods: many imported from England. As these mansions have been remodeled, or torn down, the finely carved fragments have found their way to auctions or were purchased on the site. They didn't come cheap.


Size is never a problem in this category. Consider the grand scale gazebo in carved white marble, 16 ft. high x 13 ft x 7ft. offered at the Red Barron auction. Will it find a buyer  with the space ?  You bet.


CLUES: The secret to collecting in this category is to re-orient your thinking. Don't think of an object in its original context. Could it used outdoors as a decorative accent ? Or, could a collection of doorknobs be framed and hung as art in a home office? There are many small objects including figural hardware, hinges and door knockers.  19th century carved stair and house finials can almost classify as folk art when the subjects are figurals of animals, fish and flowers. These some up at Skinner's Americana auctions in Boston.


While Tiffany leaded glass windows are sky-high in price and rare, Salvage One offers turn-of-the-19th century leaded glass windows from churches and schools for several hundred dollars. They also have antique bathroom fittings, that can be as pricey as a work of art. "Really unique is the 19th century, carved, alabaster toilet we have priced at $2,500, " Salvage One manager, Steven Hruskocy told me. "People are looking for

one-of-a-kind bathroom fittings."

For more ideas of items and pricing check out Miller's International Antiques Professional Handbook.

If you have any questions, you can Email us at

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