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The Mars Bar Lives Again: Wood From Razed Landmark Saved for Art Exhibit

By DNAinfo Staff on January 27, 2012 7:12am

Wood salvaged from the Mars Bar will be used in a furniture design exhibit.
Wood salvaged from the Mars Bar will be used in a furniture design exhibit.
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EAST VILLAGE — The notoriously grungy and dilapidated Mars Bar wasn’t the kind of place that made you think of art.

More like blood stains, fruit flies, leaky plumbing and improvisatory body piercing.

But for Mars Bar's patrons and fans, it was also an endless source of only-in-New York stories: a landmark of the drunk and disorderly.

That is why the bar, shuttered last summer, was included on a list of 12 razed “historical sites” where salvaged lumber will be used for a furniture-design exhibition.

The event, called 12 x 12, will pair a dozen contemporary furniture designers with lumber reclaimed from a dozen demolished New York City structures, including many with deep links to the city’s cultural, architectural and economic history.

They range from the Mars Bar, a symbol of pre-gentrification East Village, to the Coney Island boardwalk, to Eugene O’Neill’s first New York theater, to Joseph Pulitzer’s Upper East Side horse stable.

There’s also wood from an Art Deco apartment building that stood on Grand Concourse in the Bronx, Brooklyn factories, a Queens liquor distillery and a building that once housed a Queens Republican Club and U.S. Post Office.

The source of all this wood is Brooklyn’s Sawkill Lumber Co., which salvages old building materials for reuse. When the 2x4s come down, Sawkill swoops in and carts them away to its Connecticut lumber yard. The company sees reclaimed wood as a “surviving relic and portal to the building’s history,” according to its website.

“The material culture of these lost buildings will be renewed by contemporary design — a transformation that reflects the magic of New York,” the company says.

One of Sawkill’s most recent jobs was an Art Deco-style meatpacking warehouse that once housed Atlas Meats at the corner of 13th and Washington streets. It was torn down this month to make way for a glass apartment tower.

Sawkill collected stacks of Douglas fir planks and included them for use in the 12 x 12 exhibition.

As for Mars Bar, it may come as a surprise to its regulars that there's anything left worth salvaging from the place. Presumably, the Eastern Spruce and Yellow Pine flooring that will be used in the 12 x 12 exhibition doesn't smell like beer or vomit.

New York-based designers interested in participating have until Jan. 31 to submit their names. A jury of experts will pick the winners, who will be given their lumber in mid-February and will have three months to finish their work.

After the Design Week exhibition, their creations will be sold at auction, with the proceeds going to Brooklyn Woods, a non-profit that offers woodworking-education and job-training courses to low-income and unemployed New Yorkers.

Not such a bad ending after all.