Demolition Depot: Salvaging Design & History

LOOKBOOKS contributor Alex Hahn visits the Demolition Depot in Harlem to step back in time and discover centuries of architectural salvage. Check out his experience and interview with the owner below. 

It’s a rare and wonderful thing to feel lost, overwhelmed and inspired. Losing oneself to a vast, sprawling inventory of fragmented history never felt as good as a trip to the Demolition Depot, an architectural salvage company, possibly the largest institution of it’s kind. With a history dating back 41 years and an inventory that proves both intimidating and inspiring, Demolition Depot demands your respect. No one can help but feel inspired by simply wandering around the three stories of stained glass, doors, windows, 18-foot-tall mirrors, furniture from all places and times, carved granite frescos, intricate paving stones made from marble, stone columns, old English telephone booths, door knobs, 8-foot-tall clock faces and mirrored wall panels from some of the most opulent homes imaginable (just to name a small fraction of inventory). All of this can make even the most well-adapted Manhattan apartment dweller long for space to design and meld all of this wonderful old with some new.

I had the chance to chat with Demolition Depot’s owner, Evan Blum about his business and some of the unique aspects of what he does.

Demolition Depot: Salvaging Design & History

Alex: How long have you been working on this? Is it a multigenerational family affair?
Evan: Nope, just me. Forty-one years.

What are your primary sources?
Deconstruction, buildings that have outlived their usefulness, renovation and when new design takes over an old building. Every day we have people stopping in to drop things off. Seven days a week we have a deconstruction team that travels all over the country collecting stuff for us. We even get some stuff from overseas.

Do you have any competition? Or rather what is your biggest source of competition?
There are others who do this but are not legitimate. It’s an easy crease in society to fall into and be able to get away with. Our biggest competitors are arrogance, stupidity and the dumpster.

What sets you apart from other places that do architectural salvage?
I come from a family background of the arts; architects, builders, manufactory and artists, so I am probably the only one who understands it fully. I can look at any piece and tell you how it’s made, where it came from and when it was made. I can also tell how to replicate it if you wanted to. We do a fair amount of replication as well. What really sets us apart is the experience, the expertise and the knowledge. We see cultural aspects to it that other places do not quite understand.

Walking around here it feels like part museum. Is that intentional or just a byproduct of the items you deal with?
Thank you! We try to feature our more unique pieces. Some of our items go to museums like the Brooklyn Museum.

While the collection here is almost incomprehensible, it there a piece or two that have just stolen you, a piece that you are proud to have had?
I had a piece from the Alhambra in Spain, a mosaic ceiling that’s even better than the one they had at the Metropolitan Museum. I had a Sullivan staircase that was pretty incredible.

I know you have another store in Connecticut, so how many stores do you have?
We have five stores in total, most of them are larger than this one. Our newest endeavor is 18 acres in Ivoryton, CT.

I have been nothing if not impressed by the items and people at Demolition Depot. I could personally spend hours upon hours there, browsing the multitude of doors and various examples of styles that span the past few hundred years. From a design standpoint, it stands as a source unlike any other.

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