Architectural Salavage

The NY Times recently ran an interesting piece on the demolition of an old Brooklyn Church and the firm which is spending "six figures" to remove the architectural elements. The firm removing the interior items believes it can sell the architectural elements for between a few dollars up to $10,000 for stone doorways and stained glass windows.

As appraisers, we often see and run into architectural elements either being uses as decorative items in decorating or still connected to the real property. Given the interest and dollars involved, it certainly is an area where appraisers should have some basic knowledge.

The NY Times reports
On a recent Saturday morning, dust choked the air, and debris rained inside the Church of the Redeemer in Brooklyn, just south of the Atlantic Terminal transit hub. Shards of stained glass panes had fallen onto remnants of floral floor tiles, near stacks of dirt-covered hymnals and mangled metal ceiling panels. Workers were hammering apart walls and carrying walnut pews, which were to be offered for sale at the Demolition Depot in Manhattan.

Last year, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island sold the property for $20 million, and the church is scheduled for demolition. Its new owner, the Jackson Group, has not announced plans for the empty lot.

Evan Blum, the owner of the Demolition Depot, said he was spending around six figures for the architectural fragments and the removal process. The house of worship, he said, “was a work of art.”

It was completed around 1870, and its architect, Patrick C. Keely, who had mostly worked for fellow Roman Catholics, had an office a few blocks away. The bluestone walls were trimmed in brownstone. Ceiling murals depicted winged creatures. Windows and wall plaques, commemorating congregants and pastors, had inscriptions like “Faithful Unto Death.” Prices for the salvaged goods will range from a few hundred dollars each for batches of tiles to the about $10,000 for stone doorways and stained-glass portraits of saints.

In the 1930s, Jessie Van Brunt, a glass artist who donated works to houses of worship around the world, created windows and mosaics for the Church of the Redeemer. Mr. Blum has sold one of her mosaics from there, depicting candles and a dove, to a Van Brunt relative.

A few pieces of the pipe organ, which had been damaged by roof leaks, were turned over to an organ restorer for recycling.

In a nearby subway entrance, Mr. Blum said, a tiled wall contains a mosaic sign for the church and images of gabled church entryways. Soon enough, he added, “No one will know what they were talking about.”

Two years ago, another Keely-designed building, St. James Catholic Church in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, was demolished, despite the outcries of preservationists. Steven Gross, a construction manager for the Archdiocese of Chicago, wrote in an email that an organ and bells from St. James are in storage, and some of its doors were installed in another church building.

Ward Miller, the executive director of Preservation Chicago, a citizens’ advocacy group, said creamy limestone fragments from the St. James church “were saved by parishioners, with a large stone cross now gracing someone’s backyard.” He added that these, however, “are only small pieces of a larger work of art and architecture, now lost.”
Source: The NY Times

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