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This local non-profit is making sure St. Louis history doesn’t get thrown away

"This is our architectural heritage"

ST. LOUIS — Local small businesses had to go into survivor-mode to stay open during COVID restrictions. But for Refab, survival wasn’t just about the bottom line.

The non-profit didn’t want to stop in its efforts to preserve pieces of our city. The business is making sure St. Louis history doesn’t get thrown away.

“This is our architectural heritage,” Eric Schwarz told 5 On Your Side. 

In a 40,000 square-foot space, Refab houses relics from our past. Schwarz called it a “warehouse of reclaimed stuff.” There is everything from doors to windows to sinks and everything in between.

“Each has its own story,” Schwarz said. 

Some stories like that of a 3,000-pound tub are famous. 

“The famous Taft tub. It is identical to the one, made by the same manufacture, that was installed in the White House in 1911. It is the only one left,” said Schwarz. 

There is old wood that is over 100 years old including beams from the 1904 World’s Fair. 

“A very special find,” said Schwarz.  

But what is truly special is the program behind the reclamations. The organization that tears down old places is also building people up. 

“We are serving anyone who has experienced homelessness,” Schwarz said. “Get people off the streets and into good paying jobs.”

They’re able to get hands-on training.

“It is extremely labor intensive,” Schwarz said.

The labor is reviving their lives and gives new life to old things. Many of the things they bring back to the warehouse often becomes something else. 

“We promote the collective and creative reuse of our built environment,” said Schwarz. 

The crew isn’t able to salvage everything though. 

“Unsavable now because of years of neglect,” explained Schwarz.

But by not neglecting the opportunity to give people and fixtures a second chance, Refab is preserving more than just St. Louis history. 

“The people [have] to be a part of it as well,” he said.

If you would like to learn more about Refab, click here.

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