In ‘Friday Black,’ Retail Is Bloody and the World Is Ending

‘I like to work in that space where, “Is it hyperbole? I don’t know,”’ the writer Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah says.
‘I like to work in that space where, “Is it hyperbole? I don’t know,”’ the writer Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah says. Photo: Limitless Imprint Entertainment

“Friday Black,” a short-story collection that veers from absurd humor to extreme violence, is earning early raves and posing an inbox challenge for its debut author.

“I used to be on the outside, really, really, really wanting to be in,” said Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, the 27-year-old writer whose book comes out on Tuesday. “Now I’m sort of on the inside, totally overwhelmed by emails.”

The book’s title draws inspiration from the retailing monster that is Black Friday. In one story, zombie-like shoppers literally kill each other for deals. As it is in his other stories, the fiction is rooted in fact.

“I really did see humans step on each other’s legs and push each other, fighting over jeans or sneakers,” said the author, who worked in high school and college at the streetwear chain Against All Odds.

In ‘Friday Black,’ Retail Is Bloody and the World Is Ending

Mr. Adjei-Brenyah, a native of Spring Valley, N.Y., whose parents immigrated from Ghana, steeps the book in themes of capitalist perversions and racial injustice. It opens with “The Finkelstein 5,” about five black South Carolina children decapitated by a chainsaw-wielding white man, and the aftermath of the crime.

“I like to work in that space where, ‘Is it hyperbole? I don’t know,’ ” Mr. Adjei-Brenyah said. “When you kill someone with a gun or a chainsaw, they’re just as dead either way. When I say ‘chainsaw,’ you have to pay attention.”

In the last story, the world comes to an end and its inhabitants must relive the day on a cosmic loop. Two 14-year-old rivals find ever more sadistic ways to torture and kill each other and their neighbors. Yet the author manages to close with a hopeful note, as his heroine strikes the pose of a dancer in a final flash of light: “And if you are with your family, or anyone at all, when it comes, you feel silly and scared, but at least not alone.”

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s “Friday Black” comes out Tuesday.

Write to Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

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To Promote Nutrition, Hospitals Host Grocery Stores and Greenmarkets

Some of the produce grown at the farm atop Eskenazi Health’s flagship hospital in Indianapolis goes to patients.
Some of the produce grown at the farm atop Eskenazi Health’s flagship hospital in Indianapolis goes to patients. Photo: Eskenazi Health

Some hospital patients are heading home with a sheaf of prescriptions—and a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash.

Invoking the mantra that food is medicine, hospitals across the country are taking measures to prevent and treat illness through diet. To nudge patients into eating well at home, they have opened food pantries that offer nutrition counseling and healthful fare. They are growing their own produce, adding farmers to the payroll and hosting greenmarkets. A few are even tiptoeing into the grocery business.

ProMedica, a not-for-profit health system headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, pursued several avenues to help patients follow a good diet. ProMedica’s Social Determinants of Health Institute set up two food pantries, where patients can receive nutritional guidance and free groceries. ProMedica opened a grocery store a few miles from one hospital, in an area that had been bereft of healthful food. Called Market on the Green, the store is open to the public, not just ProMedica patients.

Market on the Green, a grocery store that ProMedica runs in Toledo, Ohio, tries to steer shoppers toward healthful fare.
Market on the Green, a grocery store that ProMedica runs in Toledo, Ohio, tries to steer shoppers toward healthful fare. Photo: Brittany Greeson for The Wall Street Journal

Market on the Green fills 6,500 square feet, making it smaller than some of the sprawling, multi-aisled outposts of national grocery chains. For Kate Sommerfeld, president of ProMedica’s Social Determinants of Health Institute, just deciding what to stock can be a challenge. At Market on the Green, she manages an inventory that includes popular snacks such as potato chips and candy with items that her hospital colleagues recommend.

ProMedica executive Kate Sommerfeld tries to nudge shoppers at Market on the Green to nutritious offerings.
ProMedica executive Kate Sommerfeld tries to nudge shoppers at Market on the Green to nutritious offerings. Photo: Brittany Greeson for The Wall Street Journal

“We have dietitians who would love to have nothing but lettuce and carrots in the store,” Ms. Sommerfeld said. “But the reality is that is not how we eat, me included.” She positioned foods to nudge shoppers into healthier choices. Most grocery-store checkout counters are a gauntlet of candy. At Market on the Green, cashiers are surrounded by produce, while candy bars are tucked down an aisle. Whole-grain cereal is shelved at eye level, sugar-laden cereal can be found on harder-to-reach shelves.

The store is a nonprofit enterprise. Ms. Sommerfeld tries to steer shoppers with prices, putting smaller markups on healthful fare. For instance, she said, whole-grain potato chips cost less than regular ones. Chocolate milk is “priced high” to encourage children to drink skim milk.

Michael Belair, a ProMedica patient, suffers from diabetes and has had several strokes. The 48-year-old former firefighter and music teacher in Toledo, Ohio, values a sound diet but says, “I wasn’t doing such a great job by myself, which was why I asked for help.”

His ProMedica doctor wrote him a prescription to be filled at the hospital’s food pantry. There, Mr. Belair met with a ProMedica nutritionist, who went over dietary do’s and don’ts. She urged him to switch to whole-wheat bread from white and to favor baking over frying when cooking. From time to time, Mr. Belair shops at Market on the Green and is now a fan of its yogurt parfait with granola.

ProMedica patient Michael Belair, seen shopping at Market on the Green, sought advice on nutrition.
ProMedica patient Michael Belair, seen shopping at Market on the Green, sought advice on nutrition. Photo: Brittany Greeson for The Wall Street Journal

The American Hospital Association, an industry trade association, has urged members to play a part in the nutritional health of their communities. An AHA report, “Food Insecurity and the Role of Hospitals,” focused on patients without access to good food and those with medical conditions that could be remedied by diet.

The 2017 report examined the “link between food insecurity and health issues, including chronic illness and child development.” The report said hospitals should help individuals and households at risk of “food insecurity,” meaning having little or no nutritious food because it costs too much or is far away. Food pantries, once the purview of anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations, can now be found in many hospitals.

Hospitals diving into the food business may find themselves in over their heads, warned Nancy Copperman, vice president of community health at Northwell Health, a hospital system based in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “Hospitals do clinical stuff really well,” she said. “We can give you a new heart, a new lung, a new liver. But we can’t give you a food pantry really well.”

Northwell consulted with experts in the industry before opening a food pantry for patients this summer. Two major companies, U.S. Foods and Baldor, donate surplus produce and canned food. Other contributors include Island Harvest, a food bank. Named the Food as Health Center, the pantry is in the basement of Northwell’s Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital. Northwell prefers not to call the Food as Health Center a pantry, concerned that the term might connote indigence. Staff members assemble bags holding two days of groceries and hand them out to some patients after doctor visits or when they are being discharged.

Patients are screened for “food insecurity and food-related diseases such as hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetes, obesity, unintended weight loss,” among other ailments, Ms. Copperman said. Patients who are referred by their doctors see a dietitian once a month and are given two days’ worth of food. After a couple of months, patients who still need food assistance are referred to outside help organizations and other local pantries.

Northwell also is considering installing farm stands with local produce beside the gift shops in its hospital lobbies.

Northwell Health’s Nancy Copperman, right, discussed diet with Juanita McPhail, a patient.
Northwell Health’s Nancy Copperman, right, discussed diet with Juanita McPhail, a patient. Photo: Lee Weissman/Northwell Health

Hospitals may find that giving patients food and advice will save the institutions money, said Lisa Harris, CEO of Eskenazi Health, a public health system in Indianapolis. “Because of our role in the community, if someone needed an MRI or a procedure, we would often be paying for that.” But offering healthful fare, as Eskenazi does to some patients at a food pantry it helps run, is more cost-effective. “It is much less expensive to help people be well than to address the effects of chronic disease,” Dr. Harris said.

The company hosts a weekly farmers market for local growers. On the roof of its main hospital, Eskenazi, with the help of a full-time farmer, is cultivating everything from kale to berries. Last year, the farm produced 3,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables, which go to patient meals and community health centers, Dr. Harris said. Eskenazi recently opened a small grocery store near the cafeteria in its main hospital. The shop sells healthful fare and is open to the public.

In Ypsilanti, Mich., a farmer oversees the 25 acres of crops cultivated at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital. Some of the kale, tomatoes and other produce is donated to food pantries and some is sold at a farmers market the hospital runs on Wednesdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.—the most popular interval for patient discharges. Patients who present a doctor’s “prescription” for the market can head home with $10 worth of free produce.

The farm’s benefits extend beyond patients’ plates. Flowers that the St. Joseph’s research and compliance team grow there are displayed around the hospital. Some hospital staff members find it therapeutic to tend small plots. One nurse administrator has been struggling to cultivate cotton, an effort the hospital labeled “a work in progress.”

Write to Lucette Lagnado at lucette.lagnado@wsj.com

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The Minefield of Talking With Your Children About Sexting

The Minefield of Talking With Your Children About Sexting
Photo: Brian Stauffer

It’s a parent’s nightmare: Your teenage daughter tries to charm her latest crush by sending him a revealing photo of herself—and is devastated when he forwards it to dozens of classmates. Or you learn from an older sibling that a suggestive photo of your younger daughter is circulating online.

“Parents take it personally and wonder, oh my God, why would my kid ever do that?” says Robbye Fox, who runs parenting workshops in Kensington, Md.

As more teens get involved in sexting, parents’ worries about the trend are mounting even faster. Some teens circulate sexually explicit selfies or videos, or capture and forward screenshots from intimate Instagram photos or FaceTime video chats.

As upsetting as this topic can be, parents should navigate it carefully. Those who react by erupting in anger or trying to control their adolescents’ behavior online risk shutting down communication altogether, research shows.

It’s better to be proactive. That means talking with children as young as 9 about preserving their privacy online and coaching them on how to avoid becoming either a victim or an active participant in abusive sexting.

More than one in four teens under 18 have received sexts. Nearly 15% have sent them. This is happening more with the increasing use of smartphones, according to a 2018 review of 39 studies of a total of 110,380 teens. Some 12% have forwarded sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent, and 8.4% have been victims of such behavior. The review, published in JAMA Pediatrics, surveys studies conducted in the past decade.

Coerced sexting by aggressors who pressure or manipulate their victims can be harmful, triggering guilt, shame and embarrassment. While boys are sometimes bullied or shamed over sexting, girls are more likely to be victimized.

Sexting also appears to be a gateway to future sexual activity. Teens who have sent a sext are 32% more likely to have had intercourse a year later, according to a 2014 study led by Jeff R. Temple, a professor and researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

All the sexting doesn’t mean sexual activity among teens is also increasing, however. The proportion of high school students who have had intercourse has fallen to 40% in 2017 from 48% in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the proportion of 15-to-19-year-olds who have had oral sex with someone of the opposite sex has fallen among girls to about 46% in 2015 from 54% in 2002, and to 51% from 55% for boys in the same period, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Still, sexting does make teens’ preoccupation with sex more visible to adults.

Parenting educator Robbye Fox helps parents understand why some teens react impulsively when they receive a suggestive photo.
Parenting educator Robbye Fox helps parents understand why some teens react impulsively when they receive a suggestive photo. Photo: Lynne Ticknor

Parents often blame themselves for failing to instill morals. They shouldn’t, says Ms. Fox, a college consultant and parenting educator who specializes in teens and technology at Parent Encouragement Program, a nonprofit. “It has nothing to do with whether your child is good or bad or how you raised them,” she says. Many children and teens simply don’t yet have the developmental ability to control their impulses, regulate their emotions or exercise sound judgment, she says.

“Sending a picture to the love of your life when you’re 13 years old seems like a great thing to do,” Ms. Fox says. She encourages parents to remember how they felt at the same age.

Also, social media and dating apps tend to lower the psychological obstacles to intimacy. With repeated exposure, sexting starts to seem normal to teens.

Many teens who receive or send sexts are normal adolescents. But parents should take it as a prompt to talk with them about healthy relationships and safe sex, says Dr. Temple, who has co-written several peer-reviewed studies on the topic.

Parents can still influence teens’ behavior. But those who respond in a controlling, authoritarian way risk driving teens underground, research shows. Many adolescents use such tools as password-protected photo-storage apps that look like calculators to hide sexts from parents and others.

Eight Ways Into a Tricky Conversation

  • Start discussions early about the risks of sexting.
  • Stress that it isn’t OK to pressure someone into sexting, or to let others pressure you.
  • Remind your child that once an image is sent, she can’t control or retract it.
  • Explain the possible legal consequences.
  • Talk with teens about sexting situations they might face, and safe responses.
  • Offer books to instill healthy views of sexuality.
  • Talk to your children about what a healthy romantic relationship looks like.
  • Before taking a teen’s phone away, try first to teach him to use it responsibly.

Parents who take a warmer approach, supporting their teen’s independence while coaching them on staying safe, will likely gain more traction.

Begin teaching children about the risks before they get a smartphone or are exposed to online pornography, says Caroline Knorr, senior parenting editor for Common Sense Media. Before they enter their teens, children should understand the importance of keeping their private parts private and refusing any requests to photograph them—no matter how much social pressure they face from boyfriends, girlfriends or other peers.

With teens, explain that sexually explicit images can come back to haunt them if they’re seen by coaches, colleges or potential employers. Explain the potential legal consequences for juvenile sexting offenders, from community service or remedial education under new laws in some states, to child-pornography charges in others.

Michelle Dennedy uses news stories about sexting to raise the topic with her two daughters, ages 12 and 17, and ask them what they think. When she learned last year that a classmate of her older daughter’s was posting sexually suggestive selfies, Ms. Dennedy, chief privacy officer for Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., urged her daughter to encourage the classmate to stop.

She also coaches teens to avoid becoming passive participants in abuse. She was driving her daughter and several other middle schoolers to the mall several years ago when she overheard them talking about a female classmate whose sexy photos were being circulated by a boy she liked without her knowledge. Ms. Dennedy pulled off the road, parked her minivan and turned to face the girls, telling them that such behavior is illegal and urging them to intervene.

“Whatever you have to do to help keep that girl safe, you do it,” she told them. “I want you to have each other’s back on this issue from now on.” White-faced with surprise, the girls agreed, and later offered support and encouragement to the victim.

Work & Family Mailbox

Q: Your past coverage of the effects of child care on small children came up at the top of our Google search for information on the topic. We have a toddler we’re eventually planning to put in day care. Has the research been updated?—R. A.

A: More recent studies based on the same large, long-term study released by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have found child care continues to have small but significant effects on youngsters through high school graduation. The research doesn’t offer specifics on how much child care is too much, but shows both positive and negative effects increasing as a child spends more total hours in day care.

The biggest downside is that more hours in child-care centers through age 4½ are linked to small but statistically significant behavioral problems in children. Those with more time in child-care centers tended to exhibit more behavior problems through sixth grade and more risk-taking and impulsive behavior through age 15. The negative effects dissipated by the end of high school, however, when boys showed no lingering behavioral effects and girls showed fewer risky behaviors and better impulse control.

Time in child care benefits children academically, however. More time is linked to better cognitive and academic skills from preschool through age 15, and to higher class rank and plans to attend more selective colleges at high school graduation. The quality of child care, as measured by children’s relationships with their caregivers and other children and their use of learning materials, predicted better cognitive and academic skills at most ages. It also predicted higher grades and plans to attend more selective colleges at high school graduation.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

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A Model Gondolier With a Relentless Regimen

Michael Angelo Ruffino practices rowing near Newport Beach, Calif. The 35-year-old hopes that one day gondoliering will become an Olympic sport.
Michael Angelo Ruffino practices rowing near Newport Beach, Calif. The 35-year-old hopes that one day gondoliering will become an Olympic sport. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal

For most, a gondola ride evokes a romantic cruise powered by a crooning boatman through the winding canals of Venice.

That’s not how Michael Angelo Ruffino thinks of it. The 35-year-old has facilitated his fair share of marriage proposals in his 10-year career as a gondolier in Newport Beach and Sunset Beach, Calif. “I get to be a footnote in one of the most important days in people’s lives,” he says. But for him, the job is about fitness as much as entertaining customers.

“I’d love before my days are done to see gondola racing making it into the Olympics,” he says.

Mr. Ruffino is hoping to win multiple medals at US Gondola Nationals in November.
Mr. Ruffino is hoping to win multiple medals at US Gondola Nationals in November. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal

He’s hoping to win multiple medals to add to his collection at the U.S. Gondola Nationals (yes, a real thing) in Providence, R.I., in November.

This unusual career piqued Mr. Ruffino’s interest several years ago. He was planning to work as a teacher and looking to make some extra money during the summer. Mr. Ruffino liked having the opportunity to sing while on the job. A connection to his Italian heritage also appealed to him.

Mr. Ruffino soon discovered rowing a gondola offered an opportunity for him to compete, too. Now, in addition to working as a yoga and fitness instructor and nude model for artists, Mr. Ruffino spends several hours a week training.

An opportunity to sing on the job and a connection to his Italian heritage is what first drew Mr. Ruffino to gondoliering.
An opportunity to sing on the job and a connection to his Italian heritage is what first drew Mr. Ruffino to gondoliering. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal
The Workout

About two times a week, Mr. Ruffino spends about an hour doing a form of yoga called sculpt, which he describes as hot yoga with weights. He will wear a weighted vest and an altitude mask while practicing. He’ll also spend about an hour four times a week doing traditional yoga.

Mr. Ruffino also spends about a half-hour four times a week doing exercises that focus on his joints, tendons and ligaments. He’ll do strength training, using machines and free weights, for 90 minutes twice a week. He added the weight training to his regimen after a competition in Stillwater, Minn., where strong winds caused him to fall behind.

“That made me realize you can have the best technique in the world, but if it’s a windy day, it’s just a matter of who is stronger,” he says.

Mr. Ruffino developed his own twist on burpees—an exercise that involves a jump in the air followed by a push-up—to help him train. Instead of a traditional push-up, Mr. Ruffino will do a staggered push-up. His left hand rests on the ground and his right hand on a block and a bit closer to his hip, to help mimic the angle of the oar. Rather than jumping, he does a lunge hop.

Mr. Ruffino calls these gurpees, or gondola burpees, and by the time the competition comes around, he likes to be able to do 45 minutes of them straight.

He also spends as much time in the boat as possible perfecting his stroke, including practicing with teammates.

Finally, Mr. Ruffino exercises his mind. About seven to 10 times a week, he’ll visualize his races. Since Mr. Ruffino competes in the distance races, which can last as long as 45 minutes, maintaining focus is important. “If you have a bad stroke, it takes a long time to re-correct,” he says.

Mr. Ruffino spends several hours per week rowing, doing yoga and ‘gurpees,’ or gondola burpees, an exercise he developed to train for gondola races.
Mr. Ruffino spends several hours per week rowing, doing yoga and ‘gurpees,’ or gondola burpees, an exercise he developed to train for gondola races. Photo: MICHAL CZERWONKA for The Wall Street Journal
The Gear

Mr. Ruffino uses a variety of equipment in his workout throughout the week. He spent about $80 on the weighted vest, about $80 on the altitude training mask and roughly $10 on a metronome, which he and his teammates will use to stay in sync. He’s also well-stocked with more typical exercise equipment, like a jump rope ($10) and medicine ball ($30).

For competitions he wears a blue, striped T-shirt in the mode of the classic gondolier look, and white work pants.

The Diet

Mr. Ruffino describes his body type—he’s 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds—as “light and slender,” which makes it difficult for him to bulk up and build muscle mass.

To counter that, Mr. Ruffino says he tries to get as many healthy calories as possible. He’s frequently drinking shakes with foods like banana, peanut butter, berries, açaí and added protein powder. He’ll also try to eat carbohydrate-heavy meals in advance of workouts. “I eat more pizza than any two people I’ve ever seen in my life,” he says.

The Playlist

When Mr. Ruffino and his teammates train together, they sometimes use a metronome to keep their strokes on the same rhythm. When he’s training alone, Mr. Ruffino gravitates toward music with a high energy, but that also has a steady drumbeat, like punk or Afrobeat.

So You Want to Race a Gondola

Want to become a competition-level gondolier? (Or at least learn how to row one of the boats?) Experience in other sports can help.

Athletes who understand the water, like surfers, stand-up paddlers and rowers, make some of the best gondoliers, says Greg Mohr, who owns Gondola Adventures, a company that offers gondola rides in Irving, Texas, and Newport Beach, Calif. Michael Ruffino works for Mr. Mohr.

Cyclists and motocross racers also have “a little bit of an edge,” Mr. Mohr says. Those sports also require athletic control of a vehicle.

For John Kerschbaum, 61, who has taken passengers on gondolas in Minnesota’s St. Croix River since 2001, decades of experience in tai chi have been crucial to his success driving the boats. “It’s the only thing that’s kept me on the boat a number of times,” he says.

Both agree that the key to success in gondoliering is practice. That’s perfecting the technique, voga alla veneta, used to propel gondolas and other, similar boats. It’s been “tweaked and perfected to be effective and yet easy on the body,” Mr. Mohr says.

The efficiency of the Venetian stroke allows gondoliers to continue rowing beyond their athletic prime. Matthew “Marcello” Haynes, who owns La Gondola Providence in Rhode Island, which will host the U.S. Gondola Nationals this year, is 39. That’s almost twice the age of many of the rowers working for him. Thanks to a technique he’s honed over the past 20 years, Mr. Haynes can hold his own against gondoliers half his age and, if the distance is long enough, even beat them. “Give me enough time and I could smoke them all,” he jokes.

What’s your workout? Tell us at workout@wsj.com

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‘Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion’ Review: Piecing Together the Van Campen Clan

Proposed reconstruction of Frans Hals’s complete ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
Proposed reconstruction of Frans Hals’s complete ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo, Ohio

‘Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion,” at the Toledo Museum of Art, might just as easily have been subtitled “An Art History Mystery.” Or “The Secret Life of a 17th-Century Masterpiece.” Or “A Lesson in Connoisseurship.” Or—let’s just say the exhibit has many stories to tell.

Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion

Toledo Museum of Art
Through Jan. 6, 2019

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It began when curator Lawrence W. Nichols saw Hals’s “Family Portrait in a Landscape” (c. 1623-25) at a London gallery in 2010 and immediately worked to acquire it for the Toledo Museum. Knowing that it was a fragment of a larger painting—its unfocused composition and unmet glances among the subjects are telltale signs—he set out to organize an exhibition that would reunite it with the artist’s “Three Children With a Goat Cart” at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. As early as the 1920s, art historians had noted similarities between the pair, which had been split by the end of the 18th century (why is a matter of conjecture). Some experts had also proposed that a small portrait in a private collection, “Head of a Boy,” belonged to this sprawling painting, but others disagreed.

Separately, about five years ago, the Dutch art historian Pieter Biesboer had identified the subject of the work as the large Van Campen family.

The Hals work formerly known as ‘Family Portrait in a Landscape,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
The Hals work formerly known as ‘Family Portrait in a Landscape,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Toledo Museum of Art

Then the discoveries, presented here for the first time, began. Belgian conservators—cleaning their painting for this exhibition—discovered the presence of about half of a girl on the far right of their canvas who had been painted over. Adding to the excitement, her lace collar matched a fragment visible in “Head of a Boy,” cementing his presence as part of this family portrait. Cleaning also revealed two hems on the left of the Belgian work that complete the dresses of two girls on the right of the Toledo painting—leaving no doubt that these paintings were all once part of a whole.

And what a whole it is. Hung here so that each work occupies the same place it would have in the intact work, the paintings show the great portraitist at his best. Rather than depict the sitters looking at the viewer—only three of the 14 figures stare out, one being the obviously proud patriarch—Hals creates a lively scene of merry faces, twinkling eyes, and dynamic hand gestures that signal family interactions. In this relatively early painting by Hals—the first of his four known family group portraits—he deploys a more controlled style of brushwork than the thick, bold strokes that made many of his portraits famous, but it’s never stilted. It’s lifelike. As usual, Hals made his changes right on the canvas—not a single drawing by him survives—and he did it with care as well as flair.

But the Toledo painting, now renamed “The Van Campen Family in a Landscape,” has an anomaly: the baby on the lower left. Connoisseurs—and viewers—can clearly tell by the differences in style (its rigidity, the too-obvious shine on her cheeks) that it was by another hand, not Hals. On the baby’s right shoe is confirmation: It’s signed by Salomon de Bray and dated 1628. With additional archival research, Mr. Biesboer determined that the Van Campens had 14 children—six boys and eight girls—including a daughter born after this painting was finished. Art historians theorize that the Van Campens, thinking their family was complete, commissioned the painting at some celebratory moment, but later were compelled to add their new child. Hals may have been too busy to do the job.

The Hals work formerly known as ‘Three Children With a Goat Cart,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
The Hals work formerly known as ‘Three Children With a Goat Cart,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Be

The three fragments account for 12 children, but what of the other two, both girls? They must have occupied the lost, lower-right corner. In Toledo, a freestanding panel illustrates an educated possibility: a sitting girl with a youngster on her lap. This piece may still exist, somewhere, but it’s more likely that it was destroyed by fire or flood—damage that may also have caused the 11-foot-long painting to be divided.

Impressively, the exhibition includes all three of Hals’s other family groups; his stunning portrait of a newly married couple; and a pair of single portraits of a couple by Hals, as well as several Dutch paintings by others and decorative-art objects from the 17th century. They create the Hals milieu beautifully, but cannot compete with this fascinating reunion of three works that have not been seen together for more than 200 years.

Those galleries contain the splendid core of this exhibition. In an attempt to make it more “relevant,” the museum has wrapped them with two others. A large initial gallery questions the meaning of family and displays other family-related artworks from the museum’s permanent collection; these range from an Egyptian pair-statue of Reramu and his wife Ankhet (c. 2400 B.C.) to five photographs of contemporary anthropological groups, like “Goth Girls” and “sports fans,” by Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek (2004). At the other end, a family activity room allows visitors to reflect on the meaning of family with others in the room, aided by puzzles, games and books. Both were superfluous to me and, I suspect, will be for others. Fortunately, they did not subtract from the edifying exhibition at the center.

The Hals work known as ‘Head of a Boy,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25)
The Hals work known as ‘Head of a Boy,’ which is a fragment of his ‘The Van Campen Family in a Landscape’ (c. 1623-25) Photo: Toledo Museum of Art

Where to Find the Most Remarkable Margaritas in San Antonio

Hotel Emma's La Babia Margarita and Three Emma's cocktail.
Hotel Emma’s La Babia Margarita and Three Emma’s cocktail. Photo: Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

A mere 150 miles from Mexico, San Antonio has put its own stamp on the margarita. In its simplest form, the cocktail combines tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur, but the city’s bars and restaurants have introduced all sorts of iconoclastic margarita variations. Some add unexpected ingredients—avocado, for one. Others make daring substitutions, subbing in vodka for tequila, for instance. After scouring the city for some memorable margaritas, we settled on four cocktail joints that outmixed the rest:

The Hotel Margarita: Hotel Emma

A complimentary margarita welcomes every guest who checks into Hotel Emma, a boutique lodging that’s part of the rebirth of San Antonio’s decade-old Pearl Brewery complex. And guests can continue the party in any of the property’s 146 rooms, since the minibars (or “iceboxes,” as they’re known) are stocked with the necessary margarita ingredients. But you needn’t stay overnight to partake. Comers and goers can find the same margarita–a straightforward, sweet-meets-tart version, dubbed La Babia after the hotel owner’s ranch–in Hotel Emma’s Sternewirth bar. Seeking a more unusual take on the classic? Try the Three Emmas (made with a rose cordial, sherry and gin, among other ingredients) or the mezcal-based Bulls on Parade. Or toast the Pearl Brewery complex’s original raison d’etre with a local craft beer. At the Sternewirth, you can even grab a cozy spot inside what was once a beer tank. 136 E. Grayson St., (210) 448-8300, thehotelemma.com

Where to Find the Most Remarkable Margaritas in San Antonio
The Crafty Margarita: The Esquire Tavern

A historic saloon situated along the city’s famed River Walk, the Esquire Tavern might be the last place you’d expect to find serious mixology. The space itself has been around in one form or another since 1933, and many of its details, such as the tin ceiling and 108-foot-long wooden bar, date back decades. But the drinks are very much in a contemporary vein. For a Mexican-inspired drink that might be considered a margarita alternative, go for the Texecutioner. Espadín mezcal stands in for tequila, backed up by bittersweet Cocchi Americano, grapefruit juice and the honey-anise liqueur xtabentún. The bar also turns out a fairly traditional margarita–the Nuestra Margarita (meaning “our margarita”) whose extra bit of tartness comes from substituting Key lime juice for the standard kind. The food is notable too, with all sorts of twisted versions of Mexican and homey American favorites. Go for the Pimento Grilled Cheese, a Southern spin on the classic sandwich. 155 E. Commerce St., esquiretavern-sa.com

The Best Under-the-Radar Food Destination in the U.S.

The Neighborhood Margarita: Tycoon Flats

In San Antonio’s up-and-coming Tobin Hill neighborhood, about 3 miles from downtown, Tycoon Flats comprises an indoor restaurant, an outdoor beer garden, even a children’s play yard. You’ll usually find more locals than tourists hanging about, many of them ordering up a Dos-A-Rita, a frozen margarita paired with a bottle of Dos Equis, the Mexican pilsner-style beer. The bottle is served upside-down within the cocktail, the two drinks becoming one. The margarita itself may not blow your mind–it’s from frozen lime concentrate boosted with a bit of orange juice. But the beer takes the drink to another level, imparting a subtle bitterness and pleasant fizz. If you prefer your cocktail sans beer, order one of the many other margaritas on offer, including a “skinny” version with agave nectar. For food, Tycoon Flats is known best for its burgers—meaty affairs topped with cheese, jalapeños or just about anything else. A special-of-the-day burger, for example, came with a fried egg, cheddar cheese and “chicken fried” bacon. 2926 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 320-0819, tycoonflats.net

The Infused Margarita: The Frutería

One of a clutch of restaurants opened by native son Johnny Hernandez, the Frutería in the close-to-downtown Southtown neighborhood draws inspiration from Mexico’s colorful fruit stands. But the emphasis at this urban-chic Frutería is squarely on the drinks—specifically, the “house infusions” that are Mr. Hernandez’s signature. Many of the concoctions feature tequila (or, in some cases, mezcal or even vodka) infused with everything from cantaloupe to spicy peppers. The infusions serve as a basis for a range of cocktails, such as the El Distrito (a version of a Manhattan) or, yes, a margarita (which combines any infusion with fresh lime, pineapple and orange juices plus Cointreau). And to pair with all those cocktails? The Frutería offers both day and nighttime menus, with an emphasis on small plates. Try one of the unusual takes on classics like chiles rellenos and gorditas. Or go for the spicy peanuts (cacahuates) with garlic and chile. 1401 S. Flores St., chefjohnnyhernandez.com/restaurants/fruteria-southtown

More in Off Duty Travel

Write to Charles Passy at cpassy@wsj.com

The Best Under-the-Radar Food Destination in the U.S.

AT CLOSE to 1.5 million people, San Antonio is bigger than Austin, bigger than San Francisco or Seattle, bigger than New Orleans. Yet it’s forever overshadowed by those celebrated food cities. Move along. Nothing to see here but endless enchiladas and the Alamo.

That postcard stereotype of the city is changing at Mixtli, where two of the country’s best young chefs are creating 10-course travelogues of Mexico’s culinary history. It’s changing at Cured, where a brass-trimmed curing cabinet harbors trussed-up sausages, ham and mystery bits to dress charcuterie plates.

And it’s a picture that began to change for me in 2011, with an anniversary trip from Austin that included chef Andrew Weissman’s Italian showcase Il Sogno and chef Steve McHugh’s New Orleans cooking at Lüke on the River Walk, the city’s winding concourse of restaurants and hotels. Il Sogno and Lüke are gone now, lost in the churn of a restaurant scene in full surge, a scene that brought me here two years ago as the new restaurant critic for the San Antonio Express-News. I’m still a tourist in a sense, commuting from Austin five days a week.

Prix-fixe Mexican gastronomy, served in a boxcar, at Mixtli.
Prix-fixe Mexican gastronomy, served in a boxcar, at Mixtli. Photo: Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

MEAT AND GREET / A Cook’s Tour of San Antonio, Dish by Dish

The Best Under-the-Radar Food Destination in the U.S.
Photo: Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

The chef: Geronimo Lopez, Botika

Local favorites: 2M Smokehouse for barbecue (2731 S WW White Rd., 2msmokehouse.com); Niki’s Tokyo Inn for sushi (819 W Hildebrand Ave.); Outlaw Kitchens for the cooking of former Culinary Institute of America colleague Paul Sartory (2919 N Flores; outlawkitchens.com)

The chef: Esaul Ramos, 2M Smokehouse

Local favorites: Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery for crab mac and cheese (136 E Grayson St., southerleigh.com); Garcia’s Mexican Food for chilaquiles and brisket tacos (842 Fredericksburg Rd.); Maria’s Cafe for Mexican food (1105 Nogalitos St.); Taquitos West Ave. for tripas tacos (2818 West Ave., taquitoswestavenue.com); Pollos Asados Los Norteños for chicken al carbon (4642 Rigsby Ave.)

The chef: Brooke Smith, the Esquire Tavern and Downstairs at the Esquire

Local favorites: Clementine in Castle Hills for updated Southern cooking (2195 NW Military Hwy., clementine-sa.com); Mark Bliss’s contemporary American Bliss (926 S. Presa St., foodisbliss.com)

The chef: Elizabeth Johnson, Pharm Table

Local favorites: Teka Molino for Tex-Mex (7231 San Pedro, tekamolino.com), Ah Dong for Vietnamese (5222 De Zavala Rd.); La Boulangerie for quiche and pastries (207 Broadway St.); Botika for Peruvian-Chinese food (303 Pearl Pkwy., botikapearl.com); Cured for charcuterie (306 Pearl Pkwy., curedatpearl.com); chef Johnny Hernandez’s Fruteria for tostadas: “He grows his own corn.” (1401 S. Flores St.)

What I’ve seen at more than 600 trattorias, bistros, steakhouses, sushi bars and craft-driven cafes in that time is a city taking a seat at the chef’s table without losing respect for the Tex-Mex, tacos and barbecue that got it here in the first place. In the past year alone, I’ve seen the San Antonio that Unesco designated as a world-wide Creative City of Gastronomy for upholding its culinary heritage as well as the progressive city that supported the openings of new Jamaican, Indian, Japanese ramen and American Southern restaurants.

Creative new energy shaped by a strong sense of the past makes San Antonio one of the most compelling under-the-radar food destinations in the country, even if you won’t see it on those hyperventilating lists of America’s best food cities. Not yet. But that’s about to change. “For a long time, we were playing catch-up with Austin, Portland and San Francisco,” said Brooke Smith, executive chef at San Antonio’s Esquire Tavern, citing those cities’ focus on craft and quality. San Antonio is “slowly turning” in that direction, she said.

That turn is a long time coming, but not without remaining grounded in tradition. “We’re this confluence of cultures. We’re Native American, we’re Spanish, we’re Mexican, we’re German, we’re Czech, we’re Polish. A lot of San Antonians are falling in love again with our own backyard,” said Elizabeth Johnson, the chef behind the vegetable-centric downtown cafe Pharm Table. It might help that the backyard is more affordable than many others: “It’s still a place where a person with humble means can open a restaurant for under a million dollars,” said Ms. Johnson. (She opened Pharm Table with just $510, starting out as a meal delivery service.)

Ms. Johnson credits a good part of the food scene’s modern energy to the restored Pearl Brewing Co. compound just north of downtown. The Pearl, as it’s called, is home to more than 20 places to eat, drink and get coffee, along with some of the city’s most expensive rental property, the retro-swanky Hotel Emma and—here comes the boom—a Culinary Institute of America campus.


Dining Deep in the Heart of Texas

A few of the restaurants redefining San Antonio’s food scene

The charcuterie platter at Cured, one of the best restaurants at the Pearl complex, a resuscitated collection of stately industrial buildings now housing dozens of restaurants and shops.
Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

If you’ve ever had Pearl beer, I apologize. It’s not good. But the brand was built on solid bones in the late 1800s, and after Pearl brewed its last San Antonio beer, billionaire investor Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury swooped in with a vision in 2002 to resuscitate the stately industrial buildings. It’s part steampunk amusement park and part culinary mecca. One of the best restaurants at the Pearl is Cured, which Mr. McHugh opened in 2013 as a testament to the hearty food of his Midwest upbringing. He’s been a James Beard Award finalist three times with dishes like pig-cheek poutine and a Red Wattle pork chop with spoonbread. But he’s not too fancy to work Pabst Blue Ribbon into a cheeseburger.

Across the complex at the original brewhouse, Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery brought beer back to the Pearl when it opened in 2014, with as many as 14 styles. The beer complements the Gulf Coast cooking of chef Jeff Balfour, whose fried snapper throats could be called chicken of the sea. His fried chicken, meanwhile, takes on a Southern charm with golden biscuits and crab macaroni and cheese.

Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery.
Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery. Photo: Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

The Pearl also attracted Venezuelan-born chef Geronimo Lopez and his restaurant Botika, where he cooks the Chinese- and Japanese-influenced food of Peru. It’s a place for sushi, ceviche and a gloriously messy union of steak, fries, gravy and eggs called lomo saltado. “There’s a core of San Antonio taste, whether it’s Tex-Mex style or Mexican style cuisine or more of the Texas meat and potatoes or barbecue,” Mr. Lopez said. “At the same time, there’s a huge taste for new things.”

Those new things sometimes wear a vintage veneer. Chef Michael Sohocki revved up the time machine downtown in 2011 when he opened Restaurant Gwendolyn, where his mission to party like it’s 1849 means holding true to methods and machinery available 150 years ago. Think hand-cranked mixers and a positively medieval arsenal of tools for cutting, pounding and kneading.

And down on the raucous River Walk, the 80-year-old Esquire Tavern, long famous for day drinkers and misdemeanors, didn’t even have a kitchen until 2011, when Ms. Smith came aboard. Seven years later, she and her staff are curing their own charcuterie, making short-rib empanadas and running a stylish cocktail speakeasy called Downstairs.

The historic Esquire Tavern.
The historic Esquire Tavern. Photo: Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

A few blocks from downtown in the city’s artsy Southtown neighborhood, the Italian restaurant Battalion has transformed a 1920s firehouse into a cross between a modern osteria and a European disco. Co-founder Andrew Goodman preserved the firepoles and painted the wheelchair lift fire engine red, and chef Stefan Bowers curated a menu of 10 pastas for $10 each that’s one of the city’s best fine-dining values.

The 80-year-old Esquire Tavern, famous for day drinkers, didn’t have a kitchen until 2011.

In the middle of San Antonio’s culinary tumult, even the city’s traditional foods are getting a second wind. 2M Smokehouse energized and frustrated San Antonio barbecue fans with equal intensity when it opened in 2016. They lined up for juicy brisket with a volcanic bark, handmade sausage with serranos and Oaxaca cheese, and mac-and-cheese spiked with chicharrones. Then they complained about everything else: the long lines, paying $20 a pound for brisket and the chance that everything would be sold out by the time they got to the front.

“Ten years ago, I would agree” with all the gripes, said pitmaster and co-owner Esaul Ramos. “But barbecue’s not what it used to be. You can’t use the cheap cuts of meat anymore. You can’t shortchange yourself.”

San Antonio is still one of the country’s best cities for tacos, something I explored in 2017. Reporting on a taco joint a day, I drove 6,000 miles, saw a priest take a parking lot confession, got threatened at a strip club taco trailer, sat through some bad karaoke and ate 1,387 tacos.

The best of those taquerías opened only last year. Carnitas Lonja, named for the love handles you might get from eating there, emerged as a new favorite by keeping it simple: pork boiled in lard until it’s crispy at the edges, then shredded for carnitas tacos on fresh corn tortillas.

Carnitas tacos at Carnitas Lonja.
Carnitas tacos at Carnitas Lonja. Photo: Max Burkhalter for The Wall Street Journal

With the opening of Mixtli in 2013, Mexican food has evolved from San Antonio’s symbol of its storied past to the food that will help define its future. Working from a converted railcar, chefs Rico Torres and Diego Galicia take deep dives into regional Mexican cooking with multicourse prix fixe menus. A meal might include sweetbreads with coffee mayo from the Sierra Nevada or a beggar’s purse with duck carnitas to represent colonial influences.

With one seating on most nights, Mixtli is changing the way Americans think about Mexican food—and San Antonio’s restaurant landscape—12 people at a time.

FORGET THE ALAMO / Five Other Sites to Take in Between Meals
The Best Under-the-Radar Food Destination in the U.S.

McNay Art Museum Picasso, Gauguin, Matisse, Renoir, Warhol—the big names call this patrician, 1920s Spanish Colonial mansion and its modern art collection home. 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., mcnayart.org

Mission San José The city’s five Unesco World Heritage missions—built by Spanish Franciscans in the 1700s—sometimes get lost in the glare of their most famous member: San Antonio de Valero, aka the Alamo. Explore the others, starting with Mission San José, a breathtaking stone citadel that still holds Catholic Mass on weekends. 6701 San José DR., nps.gov/saan

San Antonio Museum of Art Housed in the restored Lone Star Brewery, the museum devotes a wing to Latin American art from pre-Columbian to contemporary. Exhibits also span the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian worlds, plus an extensive Asian collection. Celebrity chef Jason Dady operates Tre Trattoria on-site, with a terrace view of the River Walk’s idyllic Museum Reach. 200 W. Jones Ave., samuseum.org

Brackenridge Park Bisected by the San Antonio River, this 343-acre park offers the oldest municipal golf course in Texas, a Japanese Tea Garden carved from a former stone quarry and easy access to the Witte Museum and its natural history exhibits. Most important? The San Antonio Zoo, for when the kids need to see a baby hippo more than they need a culture fix. 3700 N. St Mary’s St., brackenridgepark.org

Hotel Emma At the heart of the lively Pearl Brewing Co. complex is the 146-room Hotel Emma. New York design studio Roman and Williams imaginatively preserved the turn-of-the-century industrial accents—like the mottled network of pipes and valves in the lobby. Even if you’re not a guest of the hotel, take in the cinematic space with a drink at the Sternewirth, the hotel bar, or an upscale dinner at the Supper American Eatery on the ground floor. Rooms from $357 a night, 136 E. Grayson St., thehotelemma.com

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Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy

They just keep getting bigger and bigger. No, not mortgage rates or iPhones, but designer sneakers. The mad scientists at haute labels such as Gucci and Balenciaga have been stuffing their soles like turduckens as sneakers increasingly cross over from actual exercise equipment to exercises in over-the-top design. Yet while these inflated kicks are populating premium department stores and boutiques, sportswear institutions like Nike and Adidas are perfecting soles that are as light as a feather. Here, we’ve ranked the latest options in sneakers, from the barely there to the boldly bloated.

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
8.0 oz (per shoe)

Zoom Fly SP Sneakers, $150, nike.com

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
11.5 oz

Adidas Originals Yung-1 Sneakers, $120, adidas.com

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
12.7 oz

Rick Owens Sisyphus Sneakers, $972, rickowens.eu

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
1 lb 2.4 oz

Run Away Sneakers, $1,330, Louis Vuitton, 212-758-8877

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
1 lb 4.9 oz

Chain Reaction Sneakers, $995, Versace, 212-317-0224

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
1 lb 6.4 oz

Track Sneakers, $850, Balenciaga, 310-854-0557

Men’s Sneakers Are Getting Freakishly Heavy
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal
2 lb 1.0 oz

Flashtrek Sneakers, $1,590, gucci.com

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Spending Big Bucks to Make a New House Look Old

Todd and Debbie Martin paid $4,000 for seven stained-glass windows—and $15,000 to retrofit and install them—in their Tiverton, R.I. home.
Todd and Debbie Martin paid $4,000 for seven stained-glass windows—and $15,000 to retrofit and install them—in their Tiverton, R.I. home. Photo: Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

Wealthy homeowners are spending big to make brand new construction look old. The trend that started with reclaimed wood flooring is now moving to a whole new level, as homeowners integrate huge architectural artifacts—from intact staircases to 20-foot-long wooden bars—into newly built homes.

Salvaged from old buildings or junkyards, these items ensure a home’s uniqueness, proponents say, and can boost resale value if done well. But incorporating large artifacts into a 21st century home demands willing and skilled craftsmen, lots of patience—and plenty of money.

“I thought my plumber was going to kill me,” groans Liz Tiesi of Threshold Interiors in New York City, recalling the process of installing a vintage sink in her Manhattan apartment. Ms. Tiesi happily paid about $800 for the oversize sink, which hailed from the old Tastykake factory in Philadelphia and worked perfectly with the industrial aesthetic she wanted. But then she learned it was nearly impossible to find a drain and drain pipe to fit. When her long-suffering plumber finally got it to work, “I was so happy,” she says. “A sink like that—you will not see another one of those for a long time.”


New Homes With the Vintage Look

These homeowners have integrated stained-glass windows, church altars and other salvaged items into their residences.

The Rhode Island home of Todd and Debbie Martin contains a number of salvaged artifacts. The kitchen island was once a church altar; the lights above it also came from a church.
Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

Joel Zettler, owner of Oley Valley Architectural Antiques in Denver, Pa., said until five years ago most of his clients were restaurants, hotels and other commercial venues. Now, roughly half of his customers are homeowners snapping up his most popular items—antique wooden bars from old hotels and saloons that usually span 14 to 24 feet and sell for $50,000 to $200,000 (not including shipping and installation).

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Salvaged items can add an instant sense of history to an otherwise bland new house, said Jessica Engholm, founder of architectural salvage company Cultheir. “We’re going into an era of building where a house can be put up overnight,” she says. Reusing older items can “introduce character that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”

Todd and Debbie Martin bought seven stained glass windows, salvaged from an 1870s church in rural Pennsylvania, before they “even had the blueprints” for the addition to their house in Tiverton, R.I., Mr. Martin said. After spying the ornate windows in the Philadelphia showroom of Provenance Companies, which specializes in reclaimed materials, the couple was determined to use them in the new structure.

An early-1900s cabinet, originally from a general store, that Bron Roylance used as a bathroom towel holder in his spec house in Sundance, Utah. Installing it required moving an air duct in the wall.
An early-1900s cabinet, originally from a general store, that Bron Roylance used as a bathroom towel holder in his spec house in Sundance, Utah. Installing it required moving an air duct in the wall. Photo: Lindsay Salazar for The Wall Street Journal

It took multiple craftsmen nearly a year to prepare the 150-year-old glass for installation. One firm reinforced the delicate glass with zinc; another built custom wooden window sashes and a third fashioned clear glass windows in the same shape as the stained glass, to protect it from the elements and provide insulation. Meanwhile, the home’s walls had to be carefully designed to accommodate the arched windows. “It’s almost like putting the space station together,” says Mr. Martin, a 48-year-old retiree.

While the Martins paid about $4,000 for the windows themselves, it cost about $15,000 to retrofit and install them in the house. Altogether, the Martins spent about $800,000 on the addition—more than double what the project would have cost if they’d skipped the reclaimed items they gathered on various road trips, Mr. Martin estimated. It was also twice what they spent on the house itself; they paid $397,500 in 2013.

Building the spec house cost more than $4 million, according to Mr. Roylance, who said his aim was to make the home resemble an ancient structure.
Building the spec house cost more than $4 million, according to Mr. Roylance, who said his aim was to make the home resemble an ancient structure. Photo: Lindsay Salazar for The Wall Street Journal

Building “the Monastery,” a Sundance, Utah, spec house that includes a number of salvaged pieces, cost more than $4 million, according to developer Bron Roylance, who said his aim was to make the home resemble an ancient structure. “I love to take old pieces and retrofit them and bring them back to life rather than letting them die in a dump,” says Mr. Roylance.

After paying approximately $6,000 for four, roughly 200-year-old stained-glass windows from a now-abandoned French colony in Egypt, Mr. Roylance—a 62-year-old Hollywood makeup artist who also dabbles in development—insisted they be installed in their original dirty and broken state.

He spent about $3,500 on a set of iron gates from the same colony for the home’s subterranean wine cellar. The gates didn’t come with the clasps necessary to close them, so a blacksmith created them from an old piece of metal he found along the railroad tracks in the area.

Then there was the early-1900s cabinet from an old general store. Mr. Roylance wanted to use it as a bathroom towel holder. Recessing the 5-foot by 5-foot piece into a wall required calling the HVAC crew to move an air duct that was in the way. Eventually, “I was able to get my way,” he says, but at a cost of about $1,500—several hundred more than he paid for the cabinet itself.

The Monastery has been on the market asking $9 million for roughly a year with Paul Benson of Engel & Völkers Park City. Marcus Wood, a member of Mr. Benson’s team, says the strategy is “waiting for that perfect buyer to come along.”

In Georgia, Carol and Randy Dupree converted a brick warehouse into a home. They bought this wrought-iron staircase for about $1,000, then power-washed it, painted it and installed it in their house.
In Georgia, Carol and Randy Dupree converted a brick warehouse into a home. They bought this wrought-iron staircase for about $1,000, then power-washed it, painted it and installed it in their house. Photo: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn for The Wall Street Journal

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Mr. Wood says reclaimed artifacts don’t necessarily increase a home’s value by themselves; they have to be installed in a tasteful way. “People can take an old antique piece and try to integrate it, but they don’t piece it together well,” he says. Mr. Roylance’s skill in selecting and integrating the artifacts adds value in his projects, Mr. Wood says.

Homeowners hoping to integrate large artifacts in their homes sometimes face a challenge finding someone to install them.

After paying $2 million in 2000 for a property on a rock outcropping above the ocean in Malibu, Calif., Liz Edlich and her husband spent years integrating architectural artifacts into the home they built there.

“I wanted it to be a jewel box, so when you walk in, you see treasure after treasure,” says Ms. Edlich, co-founder of the skin care line Radical Skincare.

After the house was built, she decided to liven up the den with a roughly 20-foot-long, carved wooden ceiling from Sri Lanka that she purchased at a Los Angeles antique store for “thousands and thousands of dollars.” But several contractors she approached refused to install it. “They said ‘You’re insane,’ ” she says.

Liz Edlich said she spent ‘thousands and thousands’ on this carved wooden ceiling from Sri Lanka, but several contractors she approached refused to install it in her Malibu, Calif. home. She finally found a team willing to take on the project, and it ultimately took ‘probably 20 or 30 guys’ to transport the piece.
Liz Edlich said she spent ‘thousands and thousands’ on this carved wooden ceiling from Sri Lanka, but several contractors she approached refused to install it in her Malibu, Calif. home. She finally found a team willing to take on the project, and it ultimately took ‘probably 20 or 30 guys’ to transport the piece. Photo: Scott Everts

Finally, she found a team willing to tackle the project. It ultimately took “probably 20 or 30 guys” to transport the piece inside, she says. The custom-built house went on the market this spring for $57.5 million.

While integrating salvaged items into their Georgia home, Carol and Randy Dupree—unlike most homeowners—were able to do much of the work themselves. The couple had purchased a roughly 130-year-old brick warehouse for $70,000 in 2006, and converted it into a home.

When they paid $1,000 for an intact wrought-iron staircase they found on Craigslist, Mr. Dupree—a former mechanic who now runs a motor home brokerage—was able to install it himself, adding a piece to the bottom to make it fit. Because they saved on labor costs, using salvaged items reduced the cost of the Duprees’ renovation to about $150,000.

Despite the effort required in repurposing large artifacts, the owners invariably say their efforts were worth it. “Our friends say, ‘Yup, this is your crazy kind of house,’ ” Mr. Martin says.

How to Fit Old Pieces in a New Home

Integrating large antiques into the structure of a new home can be tricky, since the items are often fragile, damaged or oddly sized, and building codes are far stricter than in the past. “There’s always a balance between what people see as aesthetic solutions and the building code,” said Milwaukee architect Wade Weissmann, who has worked on several projects featuring large reclaimed items. One solution, he said, is to use artifacts for decoration rather than function: for example, placing antique windows inside the house rather than on an exterior wall to avoid issues with weatherproofing. And the earlier an artifact is introduced in the planning process, the better. That way the architect and builder have plenty of time to make any necessary changes to the design.

Write to Candace Taylor at Candace.Taylor@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 19, 2018, print edition as ‘Instant History for $200,000.’

‘Wildlife’ Review: A Family’s Ardent, Troubled Heart

What more could anyone ask for—spoiler alert: the answer is nothing—than an affecting coming-of-age drama based on a superb book and directed by an exceptional actor in his directorial debut? The film is “Wildlife” and the director is Paul Dano. He worked from a screenplay that Zoe Kazan and he adapted from the Richard Ford novel. The hero is a lonely teenager in Montana in 1960, trying to understand the ways of the world through his suddenly fractured family. The director doesn’t appear on screen, and his protagonist isn’t a stand-in for himself: At the age of 14, Joe Brinson is already his own boy on the way to becoming…