On a quiet side street in the South End, across from a very old warehouse that had yet to be converted into condos, artists’ space, or a gym, there was a row of businesses in an elegant brick building. One was a gallery; another, a vintage clothing store. A third was filled, from the basement to the rafters, of materials salvaged from that most common Boston real estate improvement: the renovation.
We wandered through dimly lit aisles lined with marble fireplace mantels, chipped doors, long sweeping banisters, and huge stone urns. Some appeared to be priced to move; i.e., if you could find a way to get it out of the shop, it could be yours for less than $1000. Others were accompanied by pictures displaying where the piece had come from. We paused in front of a rose-colored marble dome, apparently once part of a church altar. The owner(?) of the shop paused from moving things in from the outside — deliberately, one at a time, on a dolly — to show us the remaining supports and how the dome sat above the altar, the carefully carved interior visible only to those who stood under it. Few of the pieces had yet to be sold, and much of the altar’s marble was so big and heavy, he explained, that he had to destroy it to remove it. Cleaning up the rubble after his work was done was part of his agreement with the church. He didn’t say where in the city it had been.