Louisiana, USA - Greg Ensslen and Gaby Tillero are proud owners of an 1840s Creole cottage found in Central City, relocated and rebuilt in the Freret neighborhood. They took on the challenge of moving a ramshackle historic house to a different location and renovating it using salvaged materials, while still keeping the original floor plan.
Greg was passionate about restoration after becoming involved in the renaissance of the Freret Street corridor, in Uptown New Orleans. He was one of the founders of the Freret Market, a neighbourhood art and flea market. In the 1990s he also worked with the Preservation Resource Centre, a non-profit organisation promoting the historic preservation of buildings and architecture in New Orleans. Greg had always wanted to find an old house to restore so when he heard about the planned demolition of the Creole cottage he was immediately interested. He knew it would make an ideal project.
The 1840s cottage was owned by a church which needed to enlarge its parking lot and decided to demolish rather then preserve it. This led to the couple's challenge of moving the house in order to save it. It took a year for Greg and Gaby to find a piece of land during which they dismantled and stored the cottage with the help of the Preservation Resource Centre. The project would also involve both time and determination to design, rebuild and renovate the house using salvaged materials.
Salvaged features included an early 20th-century iron railing from an old housing project to complement the original thick wood stairs. The geometric patterns of the railings made a statement design which doubled as a fun gym bar for their two sons, aged six and nine. When entering the front door a wood mantel can be seen which the couple had previously salvaged to use as a bed headboard. The kitchen island, which used to be a department store sewing table, is another salvage yard find. The table which was once used to make school uniforms for the kids of New Orleans is now making a new story at the heart of their family kitchen.
Memories too came from his own family history in a door with old coloured glass panes cast by Greg's father, in the late 1970s. His father had worked in a factory in southern New Jersey, known for its glass-making. The stained glass panels make a stunning addition to their bathroom door.
Greg reused windows that he had collected before found the cottage. He fell in love with the windows as soon as he saw them in a local salvage yard. He had never seen anything like them before; square and very masculine with oversized mullions. He loved them so much that even when they were unfortunately stolen, while in storage, Greg managed to re salvage them. He put the word out with local salvage yards about the theft of distinctive set of windows. Luckily it worked and the thief was apprehended by the police and the windows rescued.
This story makes a good case to support theft alerts which can be created online at SalvoWEB. Architectural salvage dealers following the Salvo code ensure they do not knowingly buy or sell stolen salvage. They will record and keep records of a sellers identity. They will not knowingly buy any item removed from listed or protected historical buildings or from sites of scheduled monuments without the appropriate legal consent. They will where possible keep a record of the provenance of an item, including the date of manufacture, from where it came, and any previous owners. Members are mainly in the UK but exist worldwide and show their membership of the Salvo code with the Crane logo. The crane is an ancient symbol of vigilance. Salvo code members can be found online at the Salvo directory. Certificates bearing the Crane logo are displayed on architectural salvage dealer websites and walls.
The best architectural features common to a Creole cottage, Greg explains, come from the millwork and external doors. The Creole design style originates mainly from French Canadian influences. The style was a dominant house type along the central Gulf Coast from about 1790 to 1840 in the former settlements of French Louisiana in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Although one of the most distinctive features - the porch - was believed to originate from the Caribbean. The renovation not only preserved materials from the old house but was also deemed innovative, such as the wide pine planks now reused as flooring which were originally roof boards.
The house renovation is a major achievement and a mix of preservation combined with individual salvaged style. Greg appreciates the design and craftsmanship of the old pieces he has reused in the house and the architectural salvage yards that enabled those pieces to be saved for others to reuse. He sums it up by saying those salvaged items are what help to give the house body, depth and character. 'They were around long before us and will be around long after us.'
Find architectural salvage yards on the Salvo directory and search online for reclaimed pieces worldwide on SalvoWEB and Salvo US for your own salvage renovation.
Nola: Almost demolished for a Central City parking lot, an 1840s Creole cottage
You Tube: Greg Ensslen home tour
Story Type: Feature
Date Modified: April 02, 2015, 09:06 PM