I discovered Orr-Reed Wrecking Company in the 1980s during my photo stylist days. A photographer directed me down to a part of town I’d never seen to find a rustic backdrop for a shoot. Little did I know the wonderland I’d find.
Behind the brick facade topped by a rusted metal sign, next to a patchwork wall of colorful doors, lies one of the most intriguing places in the Southwest. Orr-Reed is the oldest architectural salvage yard in Dallas.
Charles “Red” Orr used his mustering-out pay after World War II to start a business with his friend James Reed. Reed sold his herd of goats to fund his half, and the two formed Orr-Reed Wrecking Company in 1946. They were pioneers in recycling, sustainability, and preservation.
John and Michelle Hargrove bought the company in 1993, and their daughter, Hannah runs it today.
Their mission statement says it all, ” Our goal is to save our cities’ history, one house at a time.”
When a house can’t be saved, I think the first call should always be to Orr-Reed because they don’t demolish homes. They deconstruct them. The materials used hundreds of years ago are generally of better quality than anything available today. Orr-Reed salvages those materials, giving them a second life.
You can find anything here if you hunt long enough. Reclaimed wood flooring, glass doorknobs, a mantle pulled from a 1920s Highland Park mansion that bit the dust, pedestal sinks, clawfoot tubs, and, yes, shiplap! If you can’t find it, all you have to do is ask Hannah. Because if she does not have it, she will find it for you.
Hannah was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions.
Candysdirt.com: Did you grow up running around to auctions with your parents?
Hannah Hargrove: I was nearly four when my parents bought Orr-Reed. For the first year, I was there every day. After I began school, I was there every Saturday. It was a magical place to grow up. I got to climb woodpiles and pretend I was a princess high up in a tower. I helped customers find things and answered the phones.
I was my dad’s little sidekick. I called him Boss A and I was Boss B. I had no idea I was a kid.Hannah Hargrove
He would take me with him to demolitions and on all sorts of other fun adventures. Every family vacation was spent looking at old buildings and finding inspiration.
CD: How do you find all this cool stuff?
HH: Everywhere. We get things from demolitions. We have vendors, homeowners, and contractors who sell and donate items. We attend auctions, small-town markets, and find things on the internet, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and even garage sales. We are always on the hunt for new inventory.
CD: How did the architects and interior designers discover Orr-Reed?
HH: Most of our clients find us by word of mouth. Frankly, what we do is very hard to advertise properly. I’ve spent the last seven years trying to step up our online presence, but even with that, most people find us because a neighbor or friend told them about us. We have a bit of a cult following!
CD: Do shoppers know what they want, or are they looking for inspiration?
HH: It’s a total mix. Some people come in knowing what they need. Others come in with an inkling of an idea without knowing how to create it. My favorite group of people are the ones who come in just to be inspired. I love watching their brains spin as the soak in the yard.
CD: What items always blow off the shelves?
HH: Five-panel doors, glass doorknobs, shiplap, wood flooring, anything Craftsman, unique mantles, cool mirrors, and midcentury items.
CD: What’s the craziest thing you’ve found?
HH: I’ve found so many weird things throughout the years that I could write a book. My oddest discovery of the year was a homemade phone/calculator/lamp combo (shown above).
My favorite find was an old trunk full of a woman’s high school memorabilia from the 1960s. We found her by posting on Facebook, and with a lot of help. I was able to return the trunk to her. She only lived a few miles away from me! The trunk had been accidentally left in the attic of her childhood home years ago. One of my vendors found it on the side of the road and brought it to me. It was a very cool feeling to reunite her with her trunk and her memories.
CD:How did you end up on the television show Strange Inheritance?
HH: After my father died, several articles were written about us. Apparently, we make an interesting story! Strange Inheritance was persistent. They called for almost a year. I finally agreed when my mom (and business partner) pointed out this amounted to free advertising. I was more open to the idea of television after that. I got a call a few months later from a different production company. We shot a pilot over the span of a year. Unfortunately, by the time it aired, there was a big cable network merger. The person who was supporting our pilot left HGTV. It would have to be the right concept for me to be interested again.
CD: What do you love about your job?
HH: I get to work with my mom and my friends while saving history. We get to play a part in restoring incredible homes and giving new homes and businesses character and something unique. I take such pride in taking my kid places and showing him the things that Orr-Reed was responsible for. I feel like there are little pieces of me all over the city. Last year I took my kiddo to the Dallas Zoo. I found a board there with my father’s handwriting on it. Not many people get to show their child how even though granddaddy is one, his mark still exists in this city.
Every stick of wood, doorknob, window, and unique item carries a tiny piece of my heart. Orr-Reed, in a way, is my love letter to Dallas.
And what a love letter Hannah!
Check out their latest finds on their Orr-Reed Architectural Co. Facebook page or visit them at 1903 Rock Island St., Dallas. Right now, they are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.