Engineering History Becomes Architectural Salvage Through Our Michael Baker Jr. House Deconstruction

Blog | Posted on: April 5, 2019

A future President and a King visited this house before CJ! 

In June 2017 I received a call from a partner at Third Street Beaver Associates, LLC, whose three members had acquired the Michael Baker Jr. House. The tone in his voice carried the expectation that I would recognize the house name. I did not, but we scheduled a time for CJ’s deconstruction manager to walk the property. Upon his return, I inspected his photos, and with dropped jaw, I googled the Michael Baker Jr. house… 

Shortly after the CJ walkthrough, the partner called to say they had not decided the fate of the house, but he would keep me posted. In late 2018, I received a call saying they could not make the house work with their development plans and we were invited in to salvage.

Michael Baker Jr. was a consulting engineer who did work all over the world, including the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. He constructed his house in 1950 for a whopping $250,000 (big money at the time). It’s a sprawling 7,000 square foot single story residence on a 38 acre lot. The home featured 6.5 baths and many novel features for its time, including radiant floor heat. 

Michael Baker Jr. died in 1977, and his wife sold the house the same year. It has had one other owner, who did very little updating to the house, so it’s pretty much in its original 1950s glory. CJ’s deconstruction crew, along with our job training partners, the South Hill Top Men’s group, have been salvaging interior paneling, bathroom fixtures, and a curvy bar currently featured at the front of the store. The Baker family (despite entertaining large parties of 400 to 600 people) did not serve alcohol in their house, but this bar could have hosted Richard Nixon (before he was president) and the King of Saudi Arabia! Both were guests of Mr. Baker.

Our exterior crew has been focused on removal of a substantial quantity of slate patio stone and the stone veneer that covers the house walls. This stone is Colorado red stone, reportedly quarried from ancient sedimentary beds and transported by rail to Beaver, PA. We will have a lot of this uniquely colored material coming next week, just in time for Earth Month and your landscaping projects! Many of the distinct interior elements of the house have already hit our sales floor, and some shoppers have even unwittingly taken home a piece of significant architectural history without even knowing!

I have included a great article featuring the memories of Carl G. Baker (son of Michael) of the house that I would highly recommend. We appreciate Third Street Beaver Associates making the house accessible to us to save as much material as possible.

This was a very challenging and rewarding project for us, and we hope you’ll appreciate such a lot of historic material being available to buy at CJ instead of going to waste.

Mike Gable

Executive Director