This Harlem Warehouse Contains An Incredible Array Of Treasures From Old New York

Irreplaceable ArtefactsThe showroom on 125th Street in New York’s Harlem neighbourhood.

Photo: Yepoka Yeebo / Business Insider

This modest Harlem tenement building contains chunks of New York buildings and landmarks worth millions of dollars.There are railings from the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s a granite toilet shaped like a kneeling man from the Cartier Mansion on 96th Street.

There are fireplaces from the Plaza Hotel, and fixtures from Jackie O’s old apartment.

This is the showroom for Irreplaceable artifacts, a company which takes old buildings apart, salvaging everything from entire stained-glass ceilings to glass door knobs.

Take a look inside the Demolition Depot >
Somewhere between an antiques dealer and a salvage yard, the company sells the items to people restoring old buildings or looking for weird, original features. This is where you go if you need 16 vintage bathtubs for a Hamptons summer home or an original front door for a Park Slope brownstone.

Items from the collection also end up in bars, restaurants and hotels all over the country. The Art Deco bar at The Odeon. The mirrors, and the bar at Balthazar. The huge clock on the front of Lavo. Interiors at the Bowery, Jane and Maritime hotels. They rent to TV and film crews, outfitting sets for Law And Order, Boardwalk Empire, and famously, the bathrooms in ‘Sex And The City.’

The business is driven by the fads in the brutal world of high-end design, where homes, hotels and bars need to be constantly reinvented, and where interiors are as definitive as where you eat and what you wear.

Like restaurants and designers, vintage styles fall in and out of favour. Right now, people are buying antique bars like crazy. “People buy antique bars every time there’s a recession,” said owner Evan Blum. “Prices are at an all-time high.”

People spend serious amounts of money, Blum explained, because they see the pieces as an investment.

At the cheaper end of the scale, Irreplaceable artifacts has $5 hooks from the Victorian Ocean House hotel in Rhode Island. At the top of the price range: a $350,000 Renaissance revival marble fireplace that used to belong to a Massachusetts governor.

Irreplaceable ArtefactsIrreplaceable Artifacts’ owner Evan Blum.

Photo: Yepoka Yeebo / Business Insider

“I understand this stuff better than anyone,” said Blum, 58, who’s done appraisal work for auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s as well as the City of New York. “I look at something and I can tell you how it was made and when it was made — sometimes by who,” he added.Saving old architecture has been an obsession for Blum since he was a kid. “I had the marquee from Loews Delancey Theatre in the backyard,” said Blum, who got started in the architectural salvage business in the 1960s. “I used to collect this stuff and I collected myself out of the house, so my mother said ‘Either you go, or the stuff goes,'” he added.

Blum works by buying the salvage rights to buildings like the JP Morgan, Vanderbilt and Whitney estates on Long Island, and ripping out everything of value, before the buildings are torn down or remodeled. Last year he went through about 160 buildings.

“I don’t like doing it when there’s no reason to take a building apart,” said Blum. “But if I don’t do it, the result could be worse.”

The alternative, he said, is usually a dumpster: “I preserve the best of the buildings.”

Irreplaceable Artifacts' Demolition Depot is on 125th Street in New York's Harlem neighbourhood.

Somewhere between an antiques dealer and a salvage yard, Irreplaceable Artifacts strips old buildings before they're demolished or remodeled.

The company sells the items to people restoring old buildings or looking for weird, original fixtures.

The huge, eerie showroom is crammed with similar items that vary wildly according to their vintage.

Many of the salvaged fixtures end up in bars, restaurants and hotels all over the world.

The company rescues everything of value in buildings that are about to be torn down or remodeled.

The showroom is a maze of clashing periods and items.

Inside, there are entire floors dedicated to doors, bathrooms and more random collections of items.

An entire ceiling hung with chandeliers taken from a hotel ballroom.

An original sink salvaged from the Puck building in Manhattan's SoHo neighbourhood.

An entire cabinet full of exit signs salvaged from an old hotel.

A close-up of the bank of mirrored bathroom cabinets.

Fireplaces are some of the most expensive items. Topping the price range is a $350,000 Renaissance revival marble fireplace.

There are fireplaces from the Plaza Hotel, and fixtures from Jackie O's old apartment.

Here, granite toilet shaped like a kneeling man from the Cartier Mansion on 96th Street.

Last year the company worked on about 160 buildings.

The company also makes reproductions of fixtures and fittings saved from old buildings.

A towering pile of rusting old radiators.

The company also rents to TV and film crews, outfitting sets for Law And Order, Boardwalk Empire, and Sex And The City.

There are chunks of New York buildings and landmarks worth millions of dollars in total.

The business is driven by the fads in the brutal world of high-end design, where homes, hotels and bars need to be constantly reinvented.

Like restaurants and designers, vintage styles fall in and out of favour.

The taps, and pipes, from an old shower.

Behind the warehouse, there's a huge yard stacked with old street signs, sections of buildings and an old London telephone box.

This huge clock used to loom above 32nd Street. Similar clocks from Irreplaceable Artifacts have ended up in bars and restaurants like Lavo in Midtown Manhattan.

There are also sconces and clocks and radiators from buildings that range from old public schools to the Vanderbilt estate on Long Island.

Here, the marble pediment (triangular roof part) of a reproduction temple.

A wall of doorways in the salvage yard in east Harlem.

Four cats slink around the Harlem building, leaping from tables and prowling the walkways between stacks of doors and windows. They were all found abandoned in buildings Irreplaceable Artifacts was taking apart.

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