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SAVING THE PAST, PIECE BY PIECE

Plunging into an abandoned house that's scheduled for demolition, Tim Sick had to fight through household trash and quite a smell Tuesday as he looked for doorknobs and sink tops.

"It's a little stinky in there," he said.

Sick was one of about a dozen volunteers salvaging what they could in three West Side houses for the Buffalo Architectural Salvage Committee. The group plans to recycle architecturally valuable items found in older homes before the houses are destroyed.

Volunteers started in the house at 169 15th St. to see what could be salvaged before trying two houses on Lowell Place. "This is our first trial house," said David Granville, an official with the Buffalo Arts Commission who is volunteering to help coordinate the effort between the city and the committee.

"We came in and set up different individuals on a project," said Sick, who as salvage supervisor was showing volunteers what to do. "Most people don't realize that a small crowbar and a hammer can tear apart an entire house."

Results of the search were spread in the front yard. They included a stained-glass panel, claw feet from an old-fashioned bathtub and a diamond-shaped transom.

Volunteers carried out the items, which were given a number and photographed by Anne Sacilowski, a freelance photographer from Lancaster. "We can create a database to cross-reference and eventually make a Web page," she said. The items eventually will be sold to preservation-minded homeowners.

Granville said volunteers looked for salvageable items in about nine houses in May. Unfortunately, not all the items were there this time around.

"Since then, many of the items we cataloged have already been pillaged," Granville said, including a pine room divider that was ripped out of the house.

Volunteers said they wanted to make sure parts of Buffalo's history weren't lost.

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