Bucks County Herald

Antiques hunters are sure to find what they seek at Architectural Antiques

KATHRYN FINEGAN CLARK



Wayne Rickert of Architectural Antiques in Bedminster displays a 17th century wooden lock.

The Architectural Antiques business cards read simply “Salvaged Building Materials: Bought—Sold” but the store is so much more than that.

It is a historical warehouse, an extraordinary collection of artifacts, hardware and tools, many of them handmade, spanning three centuries of American residential construction.

“It’s my passion,” said Wayne Rickert, owner of the business, housed in a 19th century barn in Bedminster.

His interest in history is natural. He comes from an old Bucks County family, a mixture of German and English. The Rickert name appeared in Hilltown in 1742, he said. Another ancestor, David Brearley, an attorney in Princeton, presided at the New Jersey convention that ratified the Constitution in 1788. He was later a federal district judge appointed by President Washington.

Rickert regards himself as “a steward of all this,” a 5,200-square-foot barn and a couple outbuildings stuffed with wonderful old things – locks and keys and doorknobs, fireplace mantels, a room full of andirons, a thousand old doors, windows, faucets, wrought iron fencing and gates, radiators, lightning rods, cast iron pots, old license plates, wooden boxes, trunks, candlesticks and literally tens of thousands more.

These are bits and pieces of the past, things owners didn’t want when Rickert remodeled old homes – and he collected them and started to look for others, learning more and more about the history of home construction. He credits much of his interest to Elmer Heintz and John Strauss, both of whom have since died but willingly shared their knowledge with him. He likes to share that now.

Picking up a 17th century wooden lock, he said, “A pound of metal was worth a man’s wages for a day then,” so they used wood and put in a small circle of metal for the locking mechanism to save money. Such a lock is rare, he said.

“Our box lock collection probably is one of the best in the world,” he said. At first Rickert had to search out items for his collection, but he is now part of a network of people with similar interests and they basically come to him, he said.

Rickert has antique Moravian tools, a collection so big the Moravian Museum in Bethlehem couldn’t find room for it. Rickert believes it’s the biggest such collection in the world and has arranged the tools in an interesting pattern on the ceiling in the main room of his shop. The barn itself is historical. It’s an 1870 bank barn that has had only three owners in the last century.

A carpenter and building contractor, turned salvage expert, turned businessman, Rickert has relied on his family for help over the years. His wife, Patricia, works with him, and he said at one time or other each of his four grown children has been involved in the business in some way or other,

“We didn’t know the first thing about antiques when I first started this,” he said. “It’s all self-taught. It’s my passion. I’ve tried to give this a museum-like atmosphere. Much of what’s here is not for sale.”

When he finds something unique, he sets it aside to keep a historical record. If he finds identical objects, he’ll sell those, but he always keeps one of everything for posterity. “It’s not just about selling, supplying a need. It’s bigger than I am,” he said.

And that need is there, worldwide. He has a steady stream of regular customers, people who also love old things and want to purchase unique hand-crafted hardware or other old items for their homes.

They return frequently to buy and sometimes just to chat, sharing the ambiance of the shop – a couple from South Africa who come every time they visit the United States, an English woman who shops several times a year, people from California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Virginia. His clients, too, often have an amazing wealth of information and are willing to share it.

Some are hunting for Early American parts, others Victorian or Art Deco.

Many of the pieces have histories. He displayed an ornate Victorian bronze backplate for a doorknob. “This is the highest quality,” he said. “It was made by Reading Hardware, known for its bronze work. Can you see the fox head?” he asked. “Every Reading Hardware piece has a fox head hidden in the design. You just have to look for it.”

“I like the unusual,” he said. “I believe I have the oldest sawtooth trammel in existence.” He said a trammel is the device used to lower a pot into the fire in a fireplace. I also have a stove plate, one Henry Mercer wrote about in his book, ‘The Bible in Iron.’”

Rickert regards what he does as a sacred trust. “Our purpose is to be good stewards of Planet Earth,” he said.

A man of deep faith, he has served as a chaplain at Doylestown Hospital in the past. Now, on Thursday mornings before the shop is open, he conducts an informal Bible study. “Sometimes five people come, sometimes 30,” he said.

Architectural Antiques is situated at 3080 Bedminster Road in the Village of Bedminster and is open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Its website is OldHomeParts.com.




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