Before I moved uptown a few years ago, I would take the subway to Hamilton Heights to visit my friend Carol, who lives on the third floor of a beautiful Beaux-Arts style townhouse that at some point had been converted into four apartments.
The ornate mantel in her living room was my first introduction to the elaborate styles that can be found throughout Upper Manhattan (see photos above and below). Doing a little bit of research, I discovered that it was common for houses like Carol's, built in the very early 1900s, to come with embellished, state-of-the-art gas fireplaces.
Today, Carol is my neighbor, and my own Hamilton Heights apartment, built in 1902, has two non-working gas fireplaces (alas, the gas was shut off long ago). The mantels were in bad shape when I moved in, so I devoted some time looking for a way to replace them.
The top recommendation from neighbors in the know was The Demolition Depot, a massive warehouse on East 125th Street filled with amazing architectural salvage, including not just mantels, but doors, bathtubs, sinks and lighting. The store is almost like a museum, and you could easily spend hours looking at the detailed pieces of the city's architectural past.
What you can't find in the Manhattan store might exist in Demolition Depot's monster Connecticut warehouse, and everything can also be searched for online.
Unfortunately I never did find exactly what I was looking for–time and budget were big factors. (Currently the average price for a nice antique mantel ranges from $7,000 to $10,000, and the popular arched Italianate style sells out very quickly, according to a store employee.)
Still, I am thrilled that a place as magical as Demolition Depot has a home–and such a big one–in this town. Long may it last!