Add curb appeal to your midcentury home with ornamental metal porch columns — 3 sources for this old school product

decorative metal porch columns from superior aluminum productsResearching ornamental iron and aluminum columns and railings to help owners of mid century home add some old skool curb appeal to their front porches was hard — the websites were not set up for national consumers, particularly, so I had hunt and peck. For this story I found three suppliers — one really good sounding, national source of decorative aluminum columns… and two local sources for ornamental iron columns and railings. (There surely must be more, so I welcome any tips.) Oh, did I mention old school — these companies have been around since — yes — right after World War II, and still have fabrication in the U.S. of A.  Check out these three places where you can find to decorative metal columns and railings –>

My most useful find — with distribution in 84 locations nationwide — is Superior Aluminum Products of Russia, Ohio (just north of Dayton.) This company was launched on July 11, 1956, in Youngstown, Ohio. That is their photo, above.

simple scrolls for decorative aluminum columns from superior aluminum productsfancy scrolls for decorative aluminum porch columns from superior aluminum productsI talked at length with one of the co-owners, Darren, who was super helpful. Superior offers a wide selection of design possibilities for its aluminum railings and columns. Here’s how it works:

  • Superior fabricates your column to order. They can use square tubing either 1″, 1.5″ or 2″ wide…. space the tubing 9″ or 12″ apart…. customize to your height… do “flat columns” or “corner columns”… and use the decorative insert of your choice — the 10 possibilities, some simple, some flowery, shown above and in the lead photo. If you have a complex installation, for example, one that includes a big wrap around (rather than just two columns), it’s recommended that you work with a local contractor so that you get the measurements just right — this stuff is made-to-order.
  • Darren notes that the simply scrolls are still manufactured at a related company, Francis Manufacturing, across the street.  Yes! Manufacturing in America!
  • Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices start at about $97 for the simplest unit and rises accordingly if you go fatter, wider, scrollier, taller, etc. However, these are MSRPs, you can wheel and deal locally when you go to buy.
  • Superior Aluminum has 84 distributors / retail locations across the U.S. To find a supplier in your area, call or email Superior, they would love to connect you.
  • Links: You want the 600 Line of decorative columns and railings.

ornamental-iron-and-railing-from-remodelers-supply

When I first started my research, I was thinking decorative cast iron rather than aluminum. I found two places that fabricate and sell mid century style decorative columns and railings. I talked to Chuck, the manager at Remodelers Supply Center (RSC) in northwest Chicago — that’s their Climate Guard line, above. Chuck was also very helpful.

Remodelers Supply Center (RSC) sounds like a big operation. Their main business is manufacturing replacement windows, but they also do custom iron work, with 12 different styles of columns. HOWEVER, Chuck says that the company requires that they do the measuring and installation of all work. Again, like others I talked to, he reiterated that measuring for these columns and railings can be tricky. Look at those stair drawings –if you get the angle or even 1″ wrong, you are in trouble — the piece is useless. In addition, many folks use those columns as structural supports for their porch ceilings — consult a pro, do it right, you don’t want your porch roof falling down. Chuck said that an 8′ painted corner column runs about $200 plus $30 installation. Link: Remodelers Supply Center – note, they also do aluminum awnings, $91 cash-and-carry for 48″ wide, 36″ projection, they manufacture it themselves, Chuck says!

RSC is another American success story. From their history page:

Our History – An American Dream: Remodelers Supply Center (RSC) is a division of Logan Square Building Material Supply, Inc. and was started over 35 years ago as an iron, awning, and fencing shop by Mr. Isaac Silver. Mr. Silver is the heart and soul of RSC, and some of our customers still call us “Isaac’s Place”….  Mr. Silver’s story is a classic American immigrant story of coming from hard times after surviving World War II. Born in Poland, Mr. Silver came to the United States through Israel and Cuba in the 1950’s. Able to speak Russian, Polish, Spanish, and English, his legacy personifies Chicago’s diverse culture. His Polish background complements the second largest Polish city in the world here in Chicago. The American Dream became a reality for Mr. Silver and his wonderful family through very hard work and the true American work ethic. We will always be indebted to his wisdom and leadership, and he can never be replaced but he can be emulated and that is what we strive for.

Chuck says the company also made wrought iron dinettes after WWII. And finally, here’s a boo-hoo story from RSC: Chuck says that up until 12-15 years ago, the company had boatloads of wrought iron plant hangers and plant stands in their warehouse. “Fancy stuff with scrollwork,” he said, and those plant stands that have three shelves that wrap around to look like a staircase. They finally had to clear the space out. They had mega sales and sold hundreds. But when all was said and done, they still had to send lots and lots to scrap. Alas.

ornamental iron columns and railings from watson steel and ironI also spoke with Watson Steel and Iron in Mathews, North Carolina. Also very friendly and helpful — Robin was great. Like Remodelers, she said that normally, all work they do is custom and includes installation. That is their work in the photo just above. But she seemed open to the idea that they could work out shipping for columns, if you really want cast iron. She indicated that cost for a standard flat column with scrollwork would typically start at about $250, a corner column, $350. Shipping extra. Link: Watson Steel and Iron Works.

More:

  • Updated: Neva found Wisconsin Iron Works.
  • I found another place, other side of Chicago, that does installations only, because of the measurements issue. Railings and Things.
  • I tend to think there are more, local places like this across the U.S. They may not have website that popped in my search. Or at all.
  • If you want to bargain hunt, try the Re-Store, craigslist, and salvage yards. Be cognizant of the potential for lead paint on old pieces – consult with a professional, take the right precautions.
If you have more resources, I’d love to add them to the list.

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Comments

  1. cricket b says

    as a blacksmith/metalworker, i do some work on these old columns, but not too much. they tend to be thin and don’t hold up too well to our kentucky humidity. but, if anyone is looking to have some made, or check out some ideas, you can go to a few folks- one is king’s metalworks, kingsmetals.com, they sell pre-fab stuff, or try searching ABANA, artist blacksmith association of north america- they’ll have links to local chapters all over the country. also, NOMMA, national ornamental and miscellaneous metals association. loads of resources there as well!

    love this site.. working on my mid 1920’s house now, adding more mid-century details, though. 🙂

  2. toothpick & brick says

    I am installing red flag stone columns under my existing ornimental steel porch columns. The stone columns would stand about 2.5 ft tall. The ornimental columns are made from 1″x1″ square tubing, with curley S patterns and are about 12″ wide. To be moderately proportional with an adgacent 8″ wide flagstone rock wall, with a 12″ wide cap, I think the rock column needs to be wider — maybe about 20″ square. However, it seems that this large stone column (20″x20″) would dwarf the 12″ wide ornimental portion of the column. Would a 20″x20″ stone column supporting a 1″x12″ ornimental column look like a toothpick on a brick? Any thoughts on the proportions above or recommendations for different dimensions?

  3. LN says

    Pam:

    I see that I’m a couple of years behind in finding this GREAT article you posted, but I thought I’d provide some feedback anyway…

    We are in the middle of downsizing to a condo (soon-to-be empty nester’s) and we’re remodeling the kitchen. We’re managing to fit in a small breakfast bar/peninsula but needed something to support the end of the counter. All I could envision was something like a metal porch support.

    I searched for a week or so before stumbling onto this article. Thank you so much!!! Maybe I just have whacky tastes when it comes to decorating my living space, although I do get compliments often. Still, I can’t help but think there’s a myriad of uses for these types of supports INSIDE as well as outside. I know I’ll be using one in our kitchen!

    I also have a cabinet with glass doors I’m repurposing. I wanted to remove the glass and just put some kind of decorative wrought iron in, instead. But the cost and weight were prohibitive. However, the aluminum inserts look like they’ll fit perfectly!

    Thanks for all this great info!

  4. Scott says

    Pam, I gotta hand it to you, nearly everytime I search for something for my house on the web there are bread crumbs that lead me right back to RetroRenovation!

    Thanks for gathering up a selection of what’s out there, very helpful as I discuss details locally about my new awnings. 🙂

    • Michael says

      Matt
      Not sure of your location, I found a few here in Texas that have the more modern stuff and do custom as well. alloynet.com in the Dallas area and azteccasting.com in Houston. I’m replacing the floral design on my colums with a modern design. Good luck with your gate.
      Michael

  5. Rick says

    I actually have original 316/317 on my front porch and am about to cover it with a wooden column. In the process of renovating the exterior my house to MCM and the grapevine theme doesn’t fit with the other clean and geometric lines. I am going to keep them but just build a cover over them so they can be used again by someone else if they choose long after I am gone.

  6. Alex says

    I need some help. I am buying a condo unit in a 1968 high rise, and luckily it has several original elements (metal closet doors, Westinghouse double wall oven, etc.) It is laid out with a living room dining room combination, and I think it would be great to build in a room divider to separate the two, even though it would not be original. I am interested in using the metal decorative columns as the divider (put 4-5 in a row closely spaced), but I want to make sure I would be doing something reasonably period-authentic. I thought I saw a decorating guidebook from the ’60s that suggested using these wrought metal exterior columns as a room divider, but I have not been able to find it again. Does anyone know if that was done very often in late-60s houses? I would just do it as an ‘accent’ piece between the two rooms.

    • pam kueber says

      hmmm… I’ve never seen an installation like that. I worry that 4-5 of those metal panels would be too cold and… they seem pretty narrow, yet with thick edging so I don’t know how they would read as one installation…. hmmm…. maybe though, depending on exactly which one you choose! Another idea: Put wood panels between each one – similarly sized or scaled in an aesthetically pleasing fashion … hmmmmm….

      More typically we see these used: http://www.millworkmarket.com/decorative-panels/ (they are an advertiser on this site)

    • Sue says

      Belated reply to Alex’s question — just was here today looking for wrought iron porch railing sources/ideas for my son’s newly purchased 60’s ranch house. It never had railings, only the wrought iron post, but his homeowners insurance is requiring at least one railing. At any rate, to weigh in on Alex’s question, my husband and I bought a 1960s ranch house in 1989 that had those wrought iron dividers (a header and two columns on either side) as a room divider between the living room and dining room. There was already a short wall of about 2 feet on either side that would have sufficed to divide the rooms, so it seems to have been used just for decorating purposes. Pam is right, it came across as cold and not appropriate for interior use like that. We took them out, and the room warmed right up. The ones on the front porch stayed though, as they fit that look. By the way, I’m pretty sure Ray’s parents on “Everybody Loves Raymond” had a wrought iron divider in their house too, along with all the other vintage touches!

  7. Dianne says

    I am wondering about the cost of getting 4 corner pieces to complete a table repurposing project. Need them about 27″ each.

    • pam kueber says

      Dianne, we don’t sell anything here, you need to contact the company(s) featured i the stories.

  8. Cathy says

    Help
    I have an older house around 1950’s and it has a cool ornamental white iron roof patio all in tack. It has ugly plastic panels on it.
    Can you put a different roof covering on it? Something more cap codish like pvc white paneling? Help?
    Cathy

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