What would you do if you knew a house built in the 18th century was going to be dismantled, its parts and pieces thrown away? If you're anything like Joe DeRisi, founder and owner of Urbanminers in Hamden, you’d come to the rescue.
DeRisi and his crew spend their time “deconstructing” houses to dismantle and resell salvaged items. With the mantra, “It’s still good,” DeRisi has a booming business keeping perfectly good materials from ending up in a landfill.
Last Thursday, he got a call from Steve Bielitz, owner of Glastonbury Restoration, a company that restores historic and landmark buildings. Bielitz told him that a pre-Revolutionary War house in Fairfield County was scheduled to be demolished because of ensuing development. Bielitz said he wanted to break it down to its main historic components and, hopefully, move it to a new site.
There is one problem with that hope: There is no place to move it to. It needs a buyer, and fast. With only a matter of weeks to work in, the house needs to be demolished and off site by mid-May.
“We have to do something to save this house,” said DeRisi. “Anything pre-Revolutionary should not be demolished.”
Between Bielitz and DeRisi, they figure the house has had some renovations in the 260 years since it was built. An addition here, a remodeling there. With that in mind, Bielitz will take only the materials that date back to 1740, like the frame, flooring, doors, and sheathing which will be in storage until a proper site is found. DeRisi will take the other materials that may have been added in the 19th and early 20th century. “A lot of these parts still have real value,” he said.
The mid-May deadline is a real time crunch. Typically, a project like this could take up to a few months to deconstruct. Finding a buyer before the deadline is crucial, however. Disassembling the house will be a careful process. “You just can’t go in there with a Sawzall and start slicing up the place,” said DeRisi.
But while DeRisi can sell the house’s materials in his Hamden storefront, Bielitz may end up having to store the guts of the house for some time. While he would love to keep the house in Fairfield County, he admitted that it might not be an option. “It’s always preferable to keep a house within the area it originated,” said Bielitz, who has over 20 years experience in the business. “But I’d rather see it rebuilt elsewhere than have it demolished.”
Bielitz has made a career out of restoring homes. But the deconstruction aspect has been a more recent addition to his business. He said the value he sees in DeRisi’s company is in what they get to recycle. These items aren’t cute T-shirts made from plastic bottles. These are period fixtures you just can’t find anymore. To a certain extent, working in conjunction with DeRisi to deconstruct and salvage kills two birds with one stone. “We’re saving the structure and being green all at the same time,” said Bielitz.
If you would like more information about this house, please contact Steve Bielitz at 860-212-3750 or Joe DeRisi at 203-287-0852.