My friend Noel and I went up to Demolition Depot, an architectural salvage outfit on 125th and third Avenue. Four stories of remnants– many, many doors, sinks and toilets– waiting in darkness (lights are on motion detectors). All are obsessively catalogued; each item tagged with a number one looks up on a computer for a price, each entry documented with a photo. Areas on each floor are designated with small hanging signs saying things like, "swinging kitchen door section" or "full set French door section." The peculiarity of the place comes through in certain inventory choices: there may be a stunning, unusual item, say, a 4-foot tall wooden Art Deco chandelier nestled amongst rows of graceful early twentieth century oval sinks and then a small, corroded, emphatically not-special mirror, each tagged, photographed and recorded.
All items appear to be in the exact state in which they were found and ripped from the bowels of origin. Small traces of lives remained. A door with children's stickers, another with a sad accretion of locks and chains. Toilets dressed in furry colored seat covers. Medicine cabinets with rust rings--documents of the last can or two of shaving cream?
We got the sense that Evan, the owner, never truly wanted to part with anything. N inquired about a large, handsome print of the Singer building propped up against the counter. It was met with "That's.... [pause]... mine. Not for sale." The small, corroded, emphatically not-special mirror mentioned above, used by us as a price gauge, was $75. To visit the fireplace annex across the street one needed to be escorted. When we asked and waited for our escort we were interrogated more than once: "Are you looking for fireplaces? Are you shopping for mantels?" Ultimately we were discouraged from venturing over, fearing what a, "just looking" might incur.
Ominously we were reminded that, if we didn't see something we wanted, we should call them since they were "always taking down buildings." Always taking down buildings. That conveyed a bit more active intent than I was comfortable with. My wistful admiration and odd sense of gratitude that someone "rescued" these items began to falter. In the Stephen King novel of Demolition Depot, Evan, sinking ever deeper into his acquisitional mania and cataloging delusions, would resort to subterfuge, landmark infringement and-- murder!--in order to take down buildings and salvage items, large and small. Then they'd remain in perpetuity on those four dark floors or "over in the warehouse."