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Owen Sounders are proud of their heritage. Our history of craftsmanship is still visible all over the city and the county.

letterslotsJames Machan sees that built heritage, from door hinges to windows to old growth lumber, headed regularly for the dump. His passion for those pieces of history we will never see again shows on his face. He shakes his head -“How can I walk through Owen Sound without crying openly?”

Also known as “The Salvage Cowboy” Machan rescues every piece of architectural salvage or hardware he can, to repurpose or repair, to be displayed or to restore a piece for its original function. But he sees demolition outpacing salvation lately, and he has some thoughts about how to slow that down.

What if we had a way, he wonders, for everyone who buys a home, say 80 years old or older, to receive information from City Hall on restoration or salvage?

“At least give the owner the opportunity, if they are going to take something out of a house and don't want to railingssave it, to keep it out of the landfill,” Machan says. “There are ways to do that without impeding the work that needs to be done in renovating the house to include the features the owner wants.”

Machan has watched whole tin ceilings being ripped out and sold as scrap metal for maybe 8 bucks, while people buy a “faux tin” version at the building store for two or three times that price for a single panel.

Money is not the issue for Machan, whose own century home has lovingly restored hardwood, baseboards halfway to my knees, and windows with those tiny ripples that give away their age. “Who cares about the dollar value? These things will Never.Be.Made.Again.”

Machan would rather fix something than throw it out. Sometimes that means simply having the patience to wait for the parts to show up. He respects that his is not the Walmart system of “just in time” fulfillment. Matching materials with those people who want them includes storing them safely for the right need at the right time.

Somewhere in Grey County there is a barn that is about to come down – likely burned down. All the wood from that barn – long, thick planks, joists and beams – are available to be preserved, if only there were a place to store the wood until it is needed for another project.

Machan is hoping there are patrons out there – either with storage space or the money to rent some, who want to keep serviceable materials out of the landfill.

There are buildings in our own community that have stood for 100 or 150 years. Floors that have felt feet in high button boots and hightops, and windows that looked out on generations walking by. There is no reason that wood or glass or hardware can't last another century or more, says Machan. Repairing, renewing and repurposing can maintain that heritage – in its original home or business or in the neighbours'.

letterslotsWhile we are concerning ourselves with single-use plastics and their impact on our soil and water systems, we may be walking by dumpsters full of vinyl siding, fencing, flooring on their way to a dump. “These things don't last forever in buildings,” says Machan. “When a product gets to the end of its life – in two years? Four years? What then?”

“We think we have come so far,” - James shakes his head again. “But we have lost so much. Pretty soon if Home Depot doesn't sell it, you won't be able to have it. Let's save some history together!"

If you are interested in helping save our local heritage and history and keeping usable material out of landfill, contact James Machan.


 

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