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In the Works

South Bend TradeWorks Champions and Facilitates Historic Preservation

Writer & Photographer / Lois Tomaszewski

Preservation of historic houses and buildings is an important way to document the history of a city or town. There are many challenges for the owners of these types of properties, and South Bend TradeWorks is helping to address some of these challenges.

With “Preserving the past. Sustaining the future” as its motto, the organization strives to preserve the historic fabric of neighborhoods, and function as a resource for teaching historic trades and supplying salvaged building materials. It is the first of its kind in the South Bend community, combining resale, salvage and training in one organization. 

It operates with three priorities, says Eric Stalheim, a member of the board of directors.

“First, we are a resale salvage shop,” he says.

Found within the TradeWorks salvage shop are wood trim, plumbing fixtures, doors, windows, furniture knobs and hardware, and more. These materials are offered for sale to the public for use on their properties. For example, one homeowner recently purchased a door to be used in a cabin renovation, to add a historic touch.

Often, those restoring a historic home may need to find a matching door or fixture, Stalheim says. These salvaged pieces cannot be found in local mega-hardware stores, but the TradeWorks shop can sometimes find a solution.

Some of this inventory comes from TradeWorks’ own salvage operation, and other materials are donated by property owners. Anything salvaged or accepted from the public must be from buildings built prior to 1970, Stalheim says. The organization works well with other resale shops in the region, who mostly sell salvage from newer construction, he adds.

This fits in with their second priority – to preserve the parts and pieces of those properties that can not be preserved in their historic form. Preservation is a nod toward the craftsmanship of bygone eras. While the people who crafted the detailed trims and moldings that adorned the ceilings, doors and window frames of houses built in the 19th and 20th centuries are long gone, it is possible to preserve their legacy by reclaiming their work and reusing it.

“Most of our customers own a historic house and need a specific item, or are restoring a historic structure of some kind,” Stalheim says.

The third component addresses the need to find qualified people to do the restoration work on historic buildings. TradeWorks offers workshops on various techniques for historically accurate repairs or implementations.

A recent workshop in October focused on the proper materials, tools and techniques to repair granite foundations. This workshop was led by Stephen Hartley, associate professor at Notre Dame, at the historic Kizer House in South Bend, which was built in the 1880s. Participants got hands-on experience in mixing lime for mortar, how to clean mortar lines, and filling in gaps properly.

Another workshop held earlier this year provided instruction on how to repair windows, and another recent one demonstrated techniques on plastering walls. For these workshops, TradeWorks partners with Indiana Landmarks and the Historic Preservation Commission of South Bend.

Participants for these workshops come from throughout Michiana and even as far away as Danville, Illinois, Indianapolis and Ohio, Hartley says.

“These workshops also help people maintain their historic homes,” Stalheim says.

Another aspect of the education that TradeWorks provides is the Field School for high school students. A recent session drew eight students, with the goal of introducing the trades need for historical preservation work, Stalheim says.

The organization has 11 board members, and everyone is a volunteer.

The TradeWorks salvage shop is located at 521 Lincolnway West in South Bend. For more information, go to southbendtradeworks.org, email southbendtradeworks@gmail.com, or follow them on Facebook @southbendtradeworks.


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