Local salvager says exodus to Cities OK

Locals preservationists were irked when a Minneapolis salvager of used building materials got the contract to strip the historic homes being razed for a new Walgreens and more hospital parking in Duluth.

Not only that, the salvager has taken it all back to the Twin Cities to sell. We’re talking architectural features of the late 1800s — woodwork, fireplaces, cast iron radiators, doors, leaded glass windows, hardware, columns, decorative carvings and more.

John McCarthy, owner of North Shore Architectural Antiques in Two Harbors, also bid on the job. But Bauer Bros. Inc.’s bid for $3,000 to $4,000 topped his.

Kevin Bauer, foreman for Bauer Bros., said the building contractor — of course — would go with the highest bidder. Which was him. It’s just business.

Meanwhile, McCarthy didn’t appear bitter about losing the contract when I talked to him Thursday. Nor was he upset to see the historic materials from the houses leave the area.

“No. 1 for me is that they’re being saved,” he said. “That’s why I got into this business. I do it because it’s something I love to do and something I value.”

The houses coming down are the big white mansion built in 1900  at 1123 E. Superior St. commonly called Silver’s for the dress shop it once housed. Behind it, on the lower side of First Street, four houses dating back to the late 1800s are being demolished. Two built in 1891 were designed by reknowned architects Oliver Traphagen and Francis Fitzpatrick.

McCarthy, by the way, happens to be a finalist in a contest to get a downtown Duluth storefront with one year’s free rent and other start-up help from the Greater Downtown Council.  (Now, wouldn’t the former Ace Hardware store at 212 W. Superior St. be perfect for architectural antiques?)

If he wins a Duluth storefront, McCarthy said the additional revenue from a second store would allow him to bid more on bigger contracts like the one he lost to Bauer Bros.