A home filled with architectural salvage, upcycled furniture and decor from Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke is a fantasy for even its most dedicated shoppers. But soon, that house will exist. And anyone will be able to sleep in the salvage haven, as long as they are willing to pay for it.
The owners of Black Dog Salvage are in the process of renovating the two-story historic house that sits right next to the main retail shop on 13th Street in southwest Roanoke. The house, which was built by a renowned Roanoke stonemason in the early 1900s, is now called The Stone House at Black Dog Salvage. It has sat mostly vacant since the Black Dog owners purchased the site in 2003. At the time, the roof and exterior of the house were in rough shape and the new owners did some renovations to keep it upright.
Black Dog co-owner Robert Kulp said he pondered for years the best use for the house. But an idea finally came to him about a year ago: allow guests to rent it.
Since the retail shop opened, Black Dog has ballooned in popularity.
Catherine Fox, a spokeswoman for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the Roanoke-area tourism agency, said Black Dog is more than just a store where shoppers stop for 20 minutes. She has witnessed people take day trips to the city just to visit the store and spend hours there. Black Dog is now the third-most recommended tourist destination in Roanoke on TripAdvisor.
The retailer catapulted to national attention with the successful TV show “Salvage Dawgs,” which airs on the DIY network and follows Kulp and co-owner Mike Whiteside as they salvage vintage home pieces and resell them to restore new buildings. Over the years, the stone house was used for studio space for “Salvage Dawgs,” but little else. After witnessing the large number of out-of-town visitors who come through Black Dog’s doors, Kulp saw the house as a way to allow guests to visit Black Dog — and Roanoke — a little longer.
“People are coming to see us from all over the country,” he said, citing that as the biggest motivator for turning the historic stone house into a rental property.
His vision is to have guests rent the house for overnight stays, or even for weeks at a time. He and Black Dog officials anticipate the house as an ideal spot for group outings, like bridal parties, work retreats or friends’ getaways. Black Dog spokeswoman Christa Stephens said the house could also be rented for special events, such as company Christmas parties.
But first comes the hard part: renovating the aging structure.
Kulp said reviving the house into a modern living space, while keeping its historic aspects intact, will require more than a $300,000 investment and take about six months. Construction began more than a month ago, and Kulp expects it to be completed this spring. How it will be rented out, and at what price, are yet to be determined.
The house has about 1,200 square feet on each floor, with three bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a media room, a finished basement and two back porches, one on each floor. The entire home will be furnished and designed with Black Dog’s architectural salvage and upcycled home decor. It will be a modern living space, but Kulp said preserving the house’s history is paramount.
Stephens and other Black Dog staffers are trying to dig up more history on the house. It was built sometime in the early 1900s by stonemason Michael Grosso. Roanoke historian Raymond Barnes wrote in a 1968 Roanoke Times column that Grosso was born in Italy and emigrated to the U.S. in about 1867.
He first lived in Rocky Mount and in about 1890 moved with his family to Roanoke to assist with masonry work for the Roanoke and Southern Railway. He built the stone house with his son, Joseph Grosso, and lived in it for many years with his family. His daughter, Lizzie Driscoll, lived in a now-demolished home across the street, according to Black Dog’s research.
Grosso worked on several prominent Roanoke buildings, including the stone walls at Hotel Roanoke, the nearby Fishburn house and the Jefferson Center.
In a fitting twist, Kulp said he believes many of the designs and materials from Grosso’s projects and other historic Roanoke buildings made their way into the 13th Street home. The stone in several places, like the front door trim and the columns, matches those other sites. Black Dog also found a stone gargoyle buried in the back yard of the property, identical to the gargoyles that hung off the old downtown Roanoke post office, which was demolished in the 1930s. The gargoyle now sits in Black Dog’s lot while the renovations take shape.
Over the past few weeks, Black Dog took requests from members of the public about what the house should be called. Stephens said the effort drew more than a thousand submissions. Last week, they decided on The Stone House at Black Dog Salvage — that’s what many people called it anyway.