The mission of Franklin Heritage, Inc. is to preserve the integrity of Central Indiana's architectural history. While preservation comes first, on rare occasions a building can't be saved, and salvage is the next best option. Madison Street Salvage (350 East Madison Street) is Franklin Heritage's destination for architectural salvage, antiques, and vintage furniture.
From solid wood furniture to eclectic chandeliers and vintage newspapers, the shop is brimming with gems and one-of-a-kind items. But the shop doesn’t run itself. Like the staff at the Historic Artcraft Theatre, many people support the salvage shop by helping customers, repairing the furniture, and preserving the integrity of Central Indiana's architectural history.
Christine Hamilton is the director of Madison Street Salvage. Though she has worked at the salvage shop for five years as a volunteer, part-time staff member, and now director, she was first a customer. Loving the vision and mission of Madison Street Salvage, as director, she now gets to work with volunteers and other staff to make the shop a hub for architectural salvage, antiques, and vintage furniture.
I sat down with Christine to learn more about her passion and work at Madison Street Salvage.
Q: How did you transition to becoming a customer to a volunteer and later an employee?
A: From my first visit, I was intrigued by the wide variety of inventory. I received a warm welcome by volunteers and staff who were here at that time. I just really enjoyed my first visit and was hooked from then on. I became a repeat customer. I was intrigued by the mission and the purpose of the store. The volunteers and people who worked at the shop were always so nice, and I thought that FHI’s mission was interesting and worthwhile. I became a volunteer for one day a week. Down the road I started volunteering for two days a week. I did that for like a year and a half. And then I actually became a part-time staff member. I transitioned to becoming the director a few months ago.
Q: What kind of work do you do for Madison Street Salvage?
A: I do a little bit of everything from organizing volunteers and their schedules, managing stock and donations that come in every day, and helping customers. There are never two days that are the same! We accept select vintage and antique donations. Vintage items are 25 years and older. It’s fun to see all of the interesting, unique pieces that come in.
I love helping customers find what they are looking for. I constantly ask, "What is it that you're trying to find?” If we don’t have a particular item in stock, I keep a log of their names and phone numbers, and then if I see it come through, I give them a heads up. It is the consistent interaction with our customers and building relationships with them that I think is very important.
Q: What is your favorite part about your work at MSS?
A: It's definitely the people, hands down. It's the customers who come in and share their vision or their ideas with me. Oftentimes they will come back and show me their photographs of how it turned out—what worked well and what didn't—and that's very rewarding to see their vision for a salvage item. I love seeing our items be brought back to life. It's truly amazing.
I also think it's very fascinating to watch what people actually buy. Some things where you think “this is gonna sit here forever,” is the exact item someone will find a good use for and snatch it up. It’s fun to sit back and see what people are interested in and what they are not.
But, honestly, it's the people. Whether they're volunteers or customers. Everyone is great to work with.
Q: Madison Street Salvage gets so many interesting pieces of furniture and other items. Have you had a favorite?
A: We recently sold an antique uranium light fixture. I believe it came from a church. It was very unique, rare, and beautiful. We put a blacklight in it, and, of course, it showed the uranium glow. That was very interesting for customers to learn about the uranium glass and the effects of the UV lighting on it. I think that had to be my favorite piece because it was beautiful, unique, and rare all at the same time. And then to top it off, one of our frequent customers bought it. They collect uranium glass, and they saw it and loved it as well. So, it's kind of interesting to see that come in and then leave with someone that will treasure it forever.
Q: Have you ever given new life to a salvaged item? If so, what was it, and what did you do with it?
A: There was an antique oak serpentine dresser that was in rough shape. I bought that and took it home and learned how to refinish that. It’s beautiful, and I love it.
Q: What is your favorite drink and snack at the concession stand when visiting the Artcraft?
A: I love the popcorn!
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: My favorite movie is Elf. It is just senseless and funny.
Are you interested in shopping at or donating to Madison Street Salvage? Check out our website!
Megan Elaine is a writer and storyteller who lives in Franklin, IN.