Recycling the Past


Source: Atlantic City Press
Author: By TIMOTHY PUKO Staff Writer
Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Published: Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, July 4, 2006

BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP — There is a masonry and landscaping shop on Route 9 here with pristine fountains and statues placed neatly along the road. Farther north, there are flower markets with plants sitting in straight rows and an antique shop with an orderly Independence Day display — a long cloth of stars and stripes carefully draped over a wooden chair all next to an old-fashioned sewing machine — sitting in the storefront window.

The White family brings a measure of organized chaos to the neighborhood. Their art salvage yard, Recycling the Past, is a kind of avant-garde cemetery for modern architectural ruins.

There is a lush garden path winding through waist-high grass with a rusty cast-iron butterfly and alligator along the way. Next to the butterfly is a winged gargoyle made out of cement in 1884, and a little worn around the edges from its 122 years. It once sat atop a Philadelphia church, 125 feet in the air. Now it could be the centerpiece of your yard for $15,000.

Buy two and part-owner Matt White will cut you a deal: $25,000 for the pair.

“You come in here and if you're not amazed, I'm surprised. There's something to catch the eye of everybody,” says, White, 34, who operates the business with his father, brother and a fourth partner. “The longer I can keep you here, the better chance I have of getting your money.”

And there is much to look at in the sprawling, high-class junkyard. Sitting among the brush is a terracotta wall and lion's head taken from Atlantic City's demolished Ohio Avenue school (built in 1901, taken down in 2004). Price: $5,000. Around the corner and propped against a tree is an external fuel tank from a mid-20th century U.S. fighter jet, painted red and white with a blue nose. Price: $1,000.

There are old rods stacked around a tree, rows of sink basins along the ground, and a house full of doorknobs and ash trays and decorative tiles. All taken from somebody else's house.

“Salvage is a really hot item right now,” White says as he sits under an old surf board wedged between the crossbeams of a swamp cedar wood hut. “People are realizing it's an important thing to save.”

The media explosion that has encouraged that realization has also enabled his business, he adds. About a third of the company's business comes from its Web site catalogue, selling to customers as far away as South Africa (cost on shipping alone for that order: $1,000). Further, the explosion of home improvement television from half-hour shows to entire networks inspires people to seek out one-of-a-kind items to bring flare to their homes.

Recycle the Past has become a media darling in its own right, too. Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs filmed a spot with one of White's salvage teams last year and told him to expect it broadcast next month. Garden, Deck and Landscape Magazine, a Better Homes and Gardens publication, have done stories about the shop this year.

A production crew from Discovery's American Chopper came by to meet White and some of his salvage wo

Recycling The Past - Architectural Salvage
381 North Main Street, Barnegat, NJ 08005

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