On a late Friday afternoon in May 2013, after talking for a few months about starting an architectural salvage business, longtime friends Kent Ahrenholtz and Neal Schroeder received a phone call from a demolition contractor who told them about a two-story apartment building on Covert Avenue in Evansville. The building had recently burned, and Ahrenholtz and Schroeder were offered the chance to salvage whatever they found before it would be demolished the following week.
Although skeptical, the pair agreed and made the drive to see what they could dig up. From the outside, their cynicism was confirmed — the roof was caving in and it was pouring rain — but on the inside was a treasure trove.
“We probably got a full trailer and two full truck loads of doors, lights, tin ceiling panels, a clawfoot tub, ceramic sinks, and other pieces, and that told us that you can’t judge what you’re going to find by what it looks like on the outside,” says Ahrenholtz recalling the pair’s first salvage. “We got a lot of good stuff out of it. Most of the houses we go to salvage, you look at the outside and you think there’s nothing there. But there is.”
The dilapidated apartment was the first salvage dig the two had been on together and a sign of good things to come. Ahrenholtz, a civil engineer, and Schroeder, who works in contracting and construction, began investigating buildings that were on the verge of being torn down, visiting estate sales and auctions, and stocking what they found in their garages.
In August 2014, their consuming hobby, and three garages, transformed into a signed lease for a physical 4,000-square-foot location at 216 N.W. Eighth St. fHg Architectural Salvage, which means “for His glory,” opened to the public Sept. 20 and sees customers of all types from young to old, Pinterest addicts, homeowners, or home restorers.
“Some are restoring their homes and they are looking for pieces that are missing or they want to add in,” says Ahrenholtz, president and salvage gofer. “There are people with old houses and new. We’ve got people who are repurposing. A number of the interior doors we’ve sold, people have made them into headboards. We have everybody from young people to retirees who come in to go down memory lane.”
In the store, visitors find numerous vintage architectural elements from a variety of time periods, such as early 20th century Victorian, 19th century Italianate, and mid-20th century modern as well as many others. The inventory includes vintage lighting pieces, antique doors, windows and hardware, clawfoot tubs, ceramic and cast iron sinks, fireplace mantels, and much more.
Ahrenholtz and Schroeder do the picking themselves and transport the salvaged architecture back to the Eighth Street location using trucks and trailers. Ahrenholtz’s wife Teresa manages the store during its open hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Customers also can make an appointment on Monday through Wednesday. The store offers consignment as well.
“We love this type of stuff whether it is antiques or architecture,” says Ahrenholtz of Evansville. “I’m a civil engineer by trade, but I took architecture classes in college. I grew up with a dad who’s a contractor. (Schroeder) grew up with a dad who’s a contractor. We hate to see a house get torn down or a building does and all of this ends up in the trash.”
“You just can’t replace this history. It can be replicated, but it’s not the same,” says Schroeder of Mount Vernon, Indiana, who is fHg’s salvage and deconstruction manager. “That type of craftsmanship you don’t see anymore.”
Since opening their physical location in August, fHg is still working on getting its name out in the community. On Oct. 9, Schroeder and Ahrenholtz received some news to help make this happen. The Evansville Vanderburgh County Building Commission selected fHg Architectural Salvage to conduct pre-demolition removal of architectural salvage from the homes within the city’s Blight Elimination Program (BEP). This program is a direct result of a grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s statewide Blight Elimination Program. Earlier this year, the City of Evansville received more than $1.5 million in this grant in order to tear down and demolish blighted properties throughout the city. There are more than 80 houses that have been approved to be demolished thus far, according to the EVBC.
Under the agreement with the city, fHg will be given the first opportunity to enter the BEP properties in order to remove architectural features and building elements in advance of the properties being demolished.
Ahrenholtz and Schroeder believe this project could drastically lessen the amount of building material going into the landfill and help save some unique and extraordinary architectural features of these old homes. The items will then be available for purchase at the store.
For more information about fHg Architectural Salvage, call Kent at 812-470-1681 or Neal at 812-459-8443, or visit fhgarchitecturalsalvage.com.