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Renovators offer advice at Old House Fair

By Candy Williams
Friday, February 22, 2002

The “house” owned by Don Reed and Garth Jones is not necessarily their home, but it’s where they hang their tool belts. The two are partners in a major renovation project of the former Union Provision and Packing Co. in Lawrenceville, a family-operated slaughterhouse for three generations.
The building, 5136 Butler St., has been renamed Slaughterhouse Gallery and Studio.

Reed will share his experiences renovating the slaughterhouse and offer advice Saturday at the seventh annual Old House Fair. Sponsored by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Dollar Bank, the fair — at Victoria Hall, 201 S. Winebiddle St., Bloomfield — is a resource for restoration experts and a gathering place for consumers contemplating or in the middle of renovation projects.

“We’re constantly aware that people are concerned about additional costs” when tackling renovation projects, says Cathy McCollom, director of operations and marketing for Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. Representatives at more than 50 booths will offer advice on topics ranging from glass and lighting design, insurance and lending institutions to energy conservation, landscape design, neighborhood organizations and more.

Foundation staff members once again will offer a “What Style is Your House?” session from 1 to 3:30 p.m. in the library. Attendees may bring photos of their houses to find out about the architecture and appropriate restoration. This session was so popular last year that an additional expert has been added.
Lectures and demonstrations will be held throughout the day on topics relevant to preservation and restoration. Also, 20-minute neighborhood bus tours will be provided from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. by Molly’s Trolleys.

A former community developer for the former Union National Bank of Pittsburgh, Reed became interested in woodworking as a hobby. When he faced the option of leaving town to remain with the bank or venturing out on his own, he decided to stay in Pittsburgh.

He tried consulting for a while, then decided to start his own woodworking business, known as Reed Woodworks and Renovation. “I put all my suits in a garment bag and went out and bought some painter’s pants,” says Reed, who describes himself as “reasonably skilled” in woodworking, having learned the basics from his grandfather. But he learned a lot on his own.

“There’s nothing like doing something for a living to ratchet up your skill level,” he says.

Meanwhile, Reed’s friend, Jones, was going through his own transformation. From Kansas, Jones came to Pittsburgh in 1994 when his wife, Tara Meyer, accepted a position as chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

With a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, Jones took a research faculty job with UPMC in Oakland, where he worked for five years. That’s when he, like Reed, did an about-face in his career.

“A lot of things were changing in my life, and I needed to do something different,” Jones says. He met Reed through an Aikido martial arts class, and the two friends passed their first-degree black belt test together.

“Don got me into woodworking and taught me a lot,” Jones says, “and I learned a lot on my own. You can call me a self-taught ex-academe.”

The duo was working in Reed’s basement in Lawrenceville when the opportunity came along to purchase the old slaughterhouse near Reed’s restored Victorian home. “We were looking for space to expand,” Reed says. “We ended up with way more space than we needed.”

They purchased the vacant building last August and finally moved into the shop a few weeks ago. They eventually plan to rent some of the space to other artists and craftsmen.

Jones says they hope to preserve as much of the history of the building as possible. The former owners left some reminders of the family business, he says, including “lots of meat hooks, two large meat grinders — which are for sale if anyone needs to grind 100 pounds of meat — a band saw and a forklift truck.”

Says Reed, “There’s still more work to be done and more money to be spent.”

The two co-own the building but maintain their own studio spaces. “Don’s forte is restoring antiques, and I build new custom furniture,” says Jones, whose business is Jones Furniture Design. They are having a “shop warming party” for family, friends and customers from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the gallery/studio.

Old House Fair

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633