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Recycled Highway Signs Point to Home for Madison Resident

Gianofer Fields

A Madison woman finds her new home’s previous tenant found a way to recycle old highway signs - and repair his floors at the same time.

The purchase of a new home marks the beginning of a new life. However, sometimes it unexpectedly connects us to a shared past.

Madison resident Carol Bracewell bought a new house at the beginning of this year. During the reconstruction she stumbled across something that made her love her new home even more.

Bracewell tells Lake Effect contributor Gianofer Fields she should have known something was up when she first saw the "speed limit 60" sign in the basement.

"There’s a storage space under the basement stairs and you open a door to look in and there’s a highway sign inside, Madison Baraboo, right there right on the inside," she says.

It turns out the home's previous occupant patched his wood floors, lined his walls and performed other "repairs" using old highway signs.

But Bracewell says she doesn't mind. In fact, she admires that he engineered a fix from recycled materials, given she prefers using salvaged wood herself rather than buying new wood to complete a project.

"I just think it's funny that I bought a house from a guy who thinks exactly like I do, and he's 98," she says. "We went to great lengths to manufacture everything to tolerances at a high quality, but then as soon as we don't need it for that purpose, we think we're going to throw it out. But all of that time and energy and creativity and manufacturing energy got put into that thing, and I just can't see putting that in the landfill."

Gianofer Fields studies material culture at UW-Madison and is the curator of "It's a Material World" - that project is funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.