By Mary Daniels
As an environmental contractor who does asbestos and lead paint removal for demolition cmopanies, Rick Lair came across countless architectural artifacts--from griffins and North Wind faces to stained glass and bronze radiator covers--that were being neglected or destroyed.
Lair began salvaging and storing these historical pieces in his warehouse, garage, attic, basement and office-- "finally," he says, "accumulating enough to sign a lease and open a store."
His new loft Gallery, King Richard's, Ltd., Architectural Artifacts & Antiques, is in the heart of Chicago's River North neighborhood.
What makes Lair's 8,000 square foot gallery different from other architectural artifact salvage companies?
For one thing, he has one of the largest selections of terra cotta clay pieces available. Prices range from $20 to $35,000. Also, "we have a lot more furniture [that other Firms]," including a massive four-piece, turn-of-the century Brittany Tudor-style bedroom set pulled ouf of a house in the south of France ($8,500).
"And we specialize in larger-scale itmes like the lions," he adds, referring to two 10 foot unglazed terra cotta lions created in the early 1900s that were removed from a Jewish temple in the Douglas Park area.
The lions ($29,000 for the pair) have become regal signature pieces in his gallery at 226 W. Ontario St., which is having a grand opening party from 6 to 9 p.m April 8th. Call 312-482-9500.