FrontRunners: Salvaged Treasures

  • Neil Steinberg

David Teplica was looking for something to place on a pedestal, actually on the two limestone pedestals guarding the Romanesque granite home that he was restoring to its 1910 splendor. “There would have been [stone] animals out front greeting people,” says Teplica, a plastic surgeon in Chicago. “But they were lost over the past 100 years, and I had to find replacements of comparable style and taste.”

Enter Stuart Grannen, owner of Architectural Artifacts (773.348.0622), a 50,000-square-foot cornucopia of mantels, doors, windows, urns, banisters—the finely wrought flourishes of the past century, rescued when the buildings around them were torn down. Grannen recently salvaged elaborate interior woodwork from a mansion in Philadelphia. “It was the summer home of the Morris family, as in Morristown, Pennsylvania,” says Grannen. “It had a phenomenal oak library and fireplace—16 feet tall and heavily carved. It’s fantastic stuff.”

Grannen has a story about every object in his overflowing Chicago warehouse, it seems. “Good eye,” he says, when a visitor notices a distinctive Arabesque pattern. “That’s a Louis Sullivan staircase from the Chicago Stock Exchange. The only other one that exists in the world is in the Met.”

In addition to people restoring historic homes, Architectural Artifacts’ clients include those building new homes, who are looking for certain exotic hardwoods that are no longer on the market. Few artisans remain who can carve an enormous mahogany mantel, for example, and if you find one, plan on waiting months or years for him to fill your order.

Grannen was able to locate a pair of Scottish limestone panthers for Teplica’s empty pediments. “The panthers are remarkable,” says Teplica. “They’re wonderfully welcoming, one-of-a-kind, and [they] exactly fit the pediment.” In fact, the fit is almost too exact. “I have to wonder,” Teplica says half in jest, “if Stuart took them away two months before I bought the house.”

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