- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Scott Hanson runs a hand across his just-finished door with a touch so gentle that he barely caresses the wood.

He steps back to admire the 3-by-8-foot piece and states - like a proud papa - that it’s destined for a condo in Galveston’s Palisade Palms luxury high-rise.

A patchwork patina of green, blue, orange and ivory, the door has been cut from several pieces of reclaimed wood and assembled into something both beautiful and practical. He can only guess where all the pieces came from. Perhaps a floor in an older home, a countertop in a Depression-era business or even pieces of a table that once fed a happy family.

The custom-made furniture that emerges from Hanson’s island workshop is alive with tales of the past.

A few decades or so ago, Hanson, a Minnesota transplant, was juggling jobs working construction and driving a couple of Houston antiques dealers as they bought and sold their wares.

After a year, he moved to Galveston, where he continued construction work. One day, he was on a remodeling job in a historic home and the contractor told him to throw away the old wood.

When the boss saw him stacking planks of the home’s original beadboard, he asked if Hanson wanted it. You bet he did, and he grabbed all that he could.

“I started buying salvage rights to different construction sites, and as I did, I got deeper and deeper into Galveston’s history,” Hanson told the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1rVFB1A).

While working for others, he learned to work for himself.

Bits and pieces of older homes and businesses - from dainty Victorian “gingerbread” trim and vintage shop signs to sturdier rafter tails and floor joists - fill his workshop, storage room and part of his antiques shop. It’s all housed in a block-long, blue patchwork building at 25th and Postoffice, a space that also has served as a hotel, brothel and live theater in years past. During Prohibition, a barbershop there fronted for a speakeasy - the front-door peephole is one of many remaining artifacts with a story to tell.

Recently, Hanson bought salvage from a turn-of-the-century building at Fort Crockett, the U.S. military facility built for coastal artillery training and harbor defense in 1897 and later named after Davey Crockett, the Tennessee congressman who perished at the Alamo.

Slivers of that history come together in the furniture Hanson makes, and he’s happy to tell you where your boards, table legs or doors came from - if he knows.

His work is found in both contemporary condos and historic homes on the island. Visitors take pieces with them all over the world, Hanson said of the work priced partly by linear foot and partly by the scale in his own head. End tables go for $300 each, a big pocket door might run $1,500 or more.

If they like, customers can pick out the wood for their piece, and they can help make it, too. Some customers learn to cut boards and assemble a whole piece. Others ask for an “artist’s special” and hand over a credit card.

Then there are people like Dr. Elg Mainous, a retired oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who’s known Hanson for years and recently started helping out in the workshop. Hanson jokes that the 85-year-old is his apprentice.

“When you retire, you need something to do,” Mainous said matter-of-factly. “Scott invited me to come down and assist in the workshop. You can’t believe the number of people he’s helped, the number of people he’s gotten into woodworking.”

“I feel very fortunate having him as a friend,” Mainous added. “There’s not a selfish bone in his body.”

In addition to creating a sense of community in his workshop, Hanson uses its saws, sanders and other tools to help others do the same.

Just next door to the big, flashy Sea Scout Base on Broadway in Galveston is a little red house with hardwood floors and wood paneling throughout. They called in Hanson to fill it with pieces that honor the city and its maritime history.

Eric Steele, director of educational programming, said the Sea Scouts showed Hanson the building and its setting, then told him to let his imagination run wild.

Hanson found antique desks that could be used as they were, but made others out of old boat parts, file cabinets and other items. The showpiece of the conference room is a large table made of wood from a saloon that survived the 1900 hurricane. Shelves from the segregated section of the Rosenberg library line one wall, and end tables are framed with porthole windows.

“It’s amazing, quite frankly,” Steele said. “I feel privileged that I come to work here every single day and look out over the water in this modern building decorated with history and made with love.”

For his part, Hanson acknowledges the heart that goes into each piece, but readily admits that the historical part has been learned over time.

“I wasn’t a history buff before, but now, I’m pretty good at Galveston,” he said. “Galveston is cool. Really cool.”

___

Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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