Hundreds of wood-paned glass windows have been sorted, stacked and lined up.

More than 150 old house doors and thousands of feet of reclaimed lumber are displayed in rough bundles. Collections of vintage stoves from the 1940s and 1950s are piled together waiting for a buyer.

Even the building housing these recovered treasures has found new life.

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After months of renovations, repairs and rescuing, Franklin Heritage Inc. is opening its architectural salvage shop. Madison Street Salvage will be a place where local residents can pick through weathered timbers, early 20th century doorknobs and hinges, and milk glass light fixtures for their own homes.

With the increased popularity of repurposing and upcycling, organizers hope that the new addition can help people find unique and time-tested items for their home projects while supporting preservation efforts throughout Franklin.

“Franklin Heritage is about as green as you can get. Keeping things out of landfills just makes sense,” said Rob Shilts, executive director of Franklin Heritage. “There are a lot of folks who want to fix up their historic homes and can do it a lot cheaper with some of the projects that we have saved.”

Franklin Heritage Inc. has been focused on maintaining the historic buildings in the city since it was founded in 1983.

The primary project of the group is the historic Artcraft Theatre, the renovated 1920s movie house that has become a primary tourist draw to downtown Franklin.

But Franklin Heritage has been selling salvaged architectural features for the past two years. Their stock started with doors, windows and other items pulled from condemned houses damaged in the 2008 Franklin floods.

All of the pieces were stored in a warehouse on Hamilton Street owned by the city of Franklin. Officials would open up the small shop each Saturday, and the reception was positive. The group started looking for a more permanent location.

With the salvage shop, officials hope to draw attention to its original mission of preservation, said Danny Causey, architectural salvage director. All of the proceeds from the shop go to Franklin Heritage projects.

“We’re trying to make Franklin Heritage right on the forefront of people’s mind, just like the Artcraft is,” he said.

The site of the new shop is a historic building along the railroad tracks in downtown Franklin. Originally founded as a bakery, it had at one time provided nearly all of the bread for Johnson County, Causey said.

“We’ve found some old news articles that said they could make up to 1,000 loaves of bread an hour,” he said.

Over time, it was converted into a deli, then purchased by Holbrook Manufacturing in the 1960s to use as a metal fabricating shop and later storage. Holbrook agreed to sell the space to Franklin Heritage.

This will be the 14th historic building that Franklin Heritage has renovated.

The organization has tried to recreate the feel of the original bakery. Authentic windows were replicated by Franklin Window and Door, stretching the length of the building and providing natural light.

Glass-lined garage doors can open up and make the shop more accessible, allowing items to be displayed outdoors if the weather is cooperative.

All of the electric and heating systems have been redone.

“This is the fun stuff, to be able to change a building around like this,” Shilts said.

The project has been a $250,000 endeavor, largely made possible by a $50,000 facade grant from the Franklin Development Corp. Franklin Heritage used $200,000 of its own funds.

Items used to furnish the new shop have been saved and reused from some of the city’s most beloved institutions.

A checkout desk was fashioned from an old cabinet from the former Alva Neal school on Jefferson Street. A glass-windowed cabinet was at one time used in Franklin College’s science building.

A weathered sign from Brown’s Market will find a permanent place in the shop’s decor. When Don & Dona’s restaurant closed, the salvage shop acquired a large sign from the eatery, which will now be used for a decoration in the new salvage shop.

“We want to tie the Franklin Heritage theme to the shop,” Causey said. “Touches like that give it a unique feel.”

Other touches add to the historic bona fides of the building.

Old barn metal and a hay trolley were hung above the checkout desk. Causey mounted from one of the beams antique bicycles that used to belong to his mother and father. A canoe that he unearthed at an auction is suspended from the ceiling.

To get the shop ready, Franklin Heritage leaned heavily on volunteer assistance. A group of 50 students from Franklin College spent their FOCUS Day — a community-service oriented start to the school year — moving every piece of salvage from the old warehouse to the new shop.

Center Grove High School students helped arrange items in the shop for its Day of Caring. Workers from Atterbury Job Corp. did structural work on the building.

Local missionaries from the Mormon church donated their time week to week.

“There have been hundreds if not thousands of volunteer hours on this building,” Causey said.

Causey hopes that the refurbished shop helps inject life into a sleepy portion of downtown Franklin. The location complements the emerging vintage shopping district on Jefferson Street, and provides another draw to the area.

“One thing we want to do is revitalize neighborhoods. We think this will be a catalyst for reviving portions of this neighborhood,” Causey said. “We envision this as little neighborhood shops here.”

At a glance

Madison Street Salvage

What: An architectural salvage shop operated by Franklin Heritage Inc., a nonprofit preservation group.

Where: 350 E. Madison St., Franklin

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Items: Historic windows, doors, barn lumber, light fixtures, hardware, plumbing, appliances and other rescued items from historic homes.

Ribbon cutting: 11 a.m. Friday

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.