Curtiss-Wright Factory–Buffalo NY
Constructed by the Austin Company, the 600,000 sq ft factory building was completed in 1909 in just 90 days in Buffalo, NY. Fast forward to 2019: the factory building had reached the end of its use and the Heart Pine and Douglas fir within was looking for new life. We reclaimed in the form of timbers as the building was dismantled.
A bit more history:
The factory was part of a 31 acre factory that Glenn Curtiss opened in 1917 to make the Curtiss JN, or “Jenny” airplanes for WWI. At the time, it was one of the world’s largest airplane plants. It closed after the war as Curtiss and Wright merged their businesses into Curtiss-Wright Corp. and moved to other factory locations around Buffalo. In the coming decades the factory would become part of Bell Aircraft.
During World War II, Curtiss-Wright produced 142,840 aircraft engines, 146,468 electric propellers, and 29,269 airplanes. Curtiss-Wright employed 180,000 workers, and ranked second among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts (behind only General Motors). Aircraft production included almost 14,000 P-40 fighters–made famous by their use by Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers in China–over 3,000 C-46 Commando transport aircraft, and later in the war, over 7,000 SB2C Helldivers. Its most visible success came with the P-40, variously known as the Tomahawk, Kittyhawk, and Warhawk, which were built between 1940 and 1944 at the main production facilities in Buffalo. During the war, a second large plant was added at Buffalo, followed by new plants at Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; and Louisville, Kentucky. Engine and propeller production was at plants in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
About the wood:
In total we reclaimed 45,000 board feet of Heart Pine beams and 7500 board feet of Douglas fir from the factory. The timbers average 8” x 14” x 20’ and, as is common with industrial reclaimed timbers, they have a smoother surface with deeper patina and some nail/bolt holes, paint, and other character marks of their past life. Heart Pine is often known as the wood our country was built with due to its heavy use in the industrial revolution. Also known as Longleaf Southern Yellow Pine, the wood has a high resin content making it very durable. It commonly features a deep amber tone and tight grain patterns.
What’s the future for these timbers and boards? Perhaps they’ll be put into use for a timber frame project or for flooring or board stock. We’re looking forward to helping them find new use.
For more photos from the Life Magazine Archive, taken by photographer Dmitri Kessel during the winter/spring of 1941 (likely March or April) at Buffalo, NY, shared by Chuck Banas, click here.
FIRE & ICE: FATE OF ICONIC CHICAGO WAREHOUSE—CHICAGO, IL
When fire consumed a massive historic warehouse in Chicago's Central Manufacturing District (CMD) in 2013, flaring up repeatedly for a week while the city endured freezing temperatures, it was considered a total loss. A large amount of the structural timbers survived. Demolition is ongoing and so far we have procured 19,000 BFof Southern longleaf pine (also known as Heart Pine*) that originally came from old growth pine forests harvested more than a century ago.
Heart Pine played a significant role in the construction of the world's first industrial park, the Central Manufacturing District (CMD), a 265-acre campus in the south of Chicago. Development of the privately planned park began in 1905 and eventually, it housed several big name companies such as Spiegel, Goodyear, Starck Piano Co., the William Wrigley Co., and Westinghouse.
Among these memorable trademarks was the Pullman Couch Company, a five-story warehouse designed by a civil engineer and architect S. Scott Joy in 1911. You might remember the Davenport-bed? That was a Pullman product.
Pullman Couch Company remained at the CMD location through the 1950s and, while a few businesses came and went over the following four decades, the warehouse stood vacant for ten years until January of 2013 when it was annihilated by fire. It was reported to be the worst fire Chicago had seen in years, commanding over 200 firefighters to tame it. With temperatures around 10 degrees, the water spray from the fire hoses swathed everything in ice - vehicles, equipment, buildings, even the firefighters.
When demolition of the building’s scorched remains began, a frozen terra cotta insignia could be seen high up on the brick exterior of the building. It was that of the Pullman Couch Company, one of the last identifiers of the 102-year-old structure that was once the powerhouse of Chicago’s industrial campus.
The timbers obtained from the demolition of the Pullman Couch Company warehouse were branded with ‘Bogualusa.’ Bogalusa, Louisiana was the site of the world’s largest sawmill, run by The Great Southern Lumber Company from 1908 until 1938. The company employed more than 1,700 men at the mill plus another 1,000 men in logging camps to keep a continuous supply of logs coming in. They only harvested longleaf pine, initially processing lumber at the rate of 1,000,000 board feet per day. After 30 years the virgin longleaf pine forests in southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi were depleted and the mill ceased operation.
The historic heart pine we acquired from the former Pullman Couch Company has been used in several projects as flooring and paneling, such as this popular pizzeria in Portland, OR. At the time of this writing, we are wrapping up another order of our character select heart pine, this one with a walnut finish. And so the old longleaf pine timbers live on, long after the fire and ice.
*According to the USDA Forest Service, longleaf pine, or yellow pine, once covered about 90 million acres of the southeastern coastal plains of the United States. Because of its quality and strength, longleaf pine lumber was a principal resource for early settlers in building ships and railroads, though it was used for just about everything from industrial buildings to furniture. It takes 30 years for longleaf pine to grow an inch and about 200 years to become mostly heartwood. Heartwood hardness comes from its resin and longleaf pine has more resin than any other species of pine. Because of its high percentage of heartwood, longleaf pine came to be called heart pine.
Most of the longleaf pines were gone by the 1920s, harvested to near extinction. Restoring these forests has now become a priority in conservation efforts, particularly because there are over 30 endangered and threatened species that rely on longleaf pine for habitat. And while we can rehabilitate longleaf pine ecosystems, we will not ever have the kind of centuries-old longleaf heart pine that now exists primarily as the structural timber of industrial America.
Check out this short film on Secrets of the Longleaf Pine.
RED PINE SALVAGED FROM TILE MANUFACTORY—ZANESVILLE, OHIO
It has been 124 years since the much sought-after tiles from American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCO) were first produced in their Ohio plant. When the time came to demolish the factory in 2015 we were able to acquire a load of Red Pine timbers, totaling around 13,000 board feet.
Founded in 1875, the American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCO) eventually needed to expand operations from its original showroom in New York City. So in 1892 AETCO set up camp in Zanesville, Ohio, alongside the Muskingum River, in a multi-building plant constructed of Red Pine timbers. A producer of floor tiles, wall tiles, and accent tiles of all sizes, patterns, and colors, the Zanesville factory was touted as the largest of its kind in the nation at the time, employing at least 1,000 people.
The AETCO factory reportedly produced the majority of ceramic tile in the U.S. for the forty years following its launch and “helped to convince Americans of the merit of tiled bathrooms and kitchens” according to Old House Authority. AETCO was considered the largest and most distinguished tile manufactory at the turn of the 20th century. Eventually, due to global competition and the gravity of the Great Depression, manufacturing tiles came to a halt and the Zanesville manufactory closed its doors in 1935.
Interest in reclaimed, sustainable wood products has been on the rise. Our reclaimed Red Pine from the AETCO plant has flowing tones of red and yellow, with streaks of resin, numerous knots, with fastener holes and ferrous staining, as well as minor surface cracks in wider planks. Some of the material was milled into paneling and more is currently in production at our Farmington NY mill, slated for a major retailer’s project. Crafted to order in our shop, our FSC-Certified reclaimed wood panels make installation of wood walls, ceilings, and partitions quick and easy. The wood is valued for its grain pattern, durability, deep patina, and incredible character.
And if tiles are your thing, a digital archive of antique AETCO tiles has been populated at Virginia tileCommonwealth University. A 100-year-old AETCO tile, prized as a one of a kind piece of art, recently sold at an online auction for $2,200. With access to the online catalog, owners of historic buildings can now more easily identify the encaustic art tiles in their custody and may choose to buy or sell them online.
About Red Pine: During the later years of the industrial revolution, builders could not solely rely on the dwindling supply of Longleaf Yellow Pine from the Southern US. Other species of softwood timbers, such as White Pine, Red Pine, and coarse-grained species of Yellow Pine were also used based on geographic availability and lower cost. The Red Pine (Pinus Resinosa) is a native of the lake states and eastward throughout New England and southeastern Canada. It grows in a narrow zone around the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and was widely used in heavy timber industrial structures within and around those regions.
- Red Pine timber was nearly depleted during the logging heyday of the 1890's
- Red Pine will normally reach a mature height of 75–100 feet
- The average life expectancy of a Red Pine is 250 years
- The tree gets its name from its reddish-brown, scaly bark and red heartwood
- Red Pine has a distinct, resinous odor when being worked
- Red Pine is very resistant to disease and insects
- During the Depression in the 1930s, millions of Red Pine plantations were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
- Most of the wooden telephone poles in Michigan and surrounding states are Red Pine
- Itasca State Park, Minnesota's oldest state park, is the best place to see some of the oldest Red Pines as the park features about 5,000 acres of them
CENTENNIAL MILLS DOUGLAS FIR SALVAGE—PORTLAND, OREGON
Started in 1910, Centennial Mills is an iconic site along the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon (see below for details on the mill). It is ideally situated for Portland’s riverfront preservation as a River District urban renewal area. However, the cost to rehab the many buildings brought a halt to re-construction plans.
In late 2014 the Portland Development Commission (PDC) passed a resolution making an emergency declaration relating to the condition of Centennial Mills. Several of the structures were dangerously close to collapse including wharfs. Northwest Demolition & Dismantling was enlisted to selectively demolish and salvage five of the warehouses and three of the grain elevators.
Pioneer Millworks was selected to reclaim timbers and planks from the deconstruction. Over 400,000 board feet arrived at our McMinnville, OR mill in 2016. The old Douglas fir is exceptional, revealing clear vertical grain boards during re-milling. Ideally, we’ll be able to place much of the Centennial Mills reclaimed material back in the Portland market.
If you’re looking for a great piece of history, let us know. We have a good number of timbers and cribbing planks from the mill ready for your project.
About the mill:
Operations began in 1910 at Crown Mills (later renamed Centennial Mills). The large grain milling and processing complex had eleven distinct structures over 4.75 acres. The mill put Portland on the map as a major production and shipping point in the Northwest. As production grew, so did the plant. Over a dozen types of farm animal feed were being manufactured in addition to traditional grains by the 1930’s. The complex reached final size in the 1940’s before being purchased by United Pacific Corp. in 1960. After purchase, the equipment and structures were updated in an effort to keep the old mill running. The mill continued expanding into the domestic market until closing down in the year 2000.
HANDSOME PINE TIMBERS RECLAIMED FROM KENTUCKY TOBACCO WAREHOUSE—LEXINGTON KENTUCKY
We recently acquired some handsome pine timbers that were salvaged out of a Kentucky tobacco warehouse. This structure was a part of a mammoth complex which—at its peak—offered over 8 million cubic feet of storage space along a major rail line. A casualty of the steady decline in tobacco farming, these buildings have been decommissioned and, by the end of the year, will be entirely dismantled.
Alex, our Acquisitions Leader, was able to take a trip down south this summer and visit this site while there was still something to photograph. As for the timbers, they're stunning. Almost entirely free of demolition damage and rot, these pine beams have a beautiful, unpainted, circle-sawn texture and mocha brown patina. Best of all, they come in dimensions that architects, engineers, and designers, are always asking for 8 x 8" and 8 x 12". Alex's only complaint is that they don't have even the faintest hint of tobacco aroma—they just smell like wood. That's not so bad though, is it?
With the furniture factory out of use and falling into disrepair, destruction of the building began. Some materials ended their journey in landfills or grinders, while we rescued 70,000 board feet of timbers, 80,000 square feet of flooring, and 80,000 square feet of sub-floor material. Some of the reclaimed square oak timbers are as large as 8”x16”. A mixture of flooring species was salvaged including oak, hickory, and maple. Much of the flooring has no paint, which is unusual for a structure of this age. The board widths vary from 2.25” and 3.25” while the original oak sub-floor offered wider 4” to 8” planks.
RECLAIMED DOUGLAS FIR A PART OF CHICAGO HISTORY—CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Pioneer Millworks recently reclaimed 67,000 board feet of Chicago’s manufacturing and industrial history from the A. Finkl & Sons steel mill. Douglas Fir timbers were extracted from the 1890s manufacturing plant that was centrally located in the Windy City along with several other steel forging factories. In 2007, an overseas firm purchased the company and the manufacturing plant moved to the southeast side of Chicago, leaving many of the historic buildings covering over 25 acres, vacant. As the demolition wrapped up in late 2014, crews ensured that nearly 90% of usable material was recycled.
Over 450 of the reclaimed A. Finkl & Sons Douglas fir timbers were recently repurposed for a large timber frame project in Michigan. Available currently from this reclamation is a collection of 5 x 11 timbers. They are free of heart with original ‘sandblasted’ surfaces.
Along with our new-reclaimed Douglas fir, flowers on the property are also finding new homes. Beds of lilies and hydrangeas have been transported to other historic locations in the Chicago area to celebrate the once industrial valor of the area.
A. Finkl & Sons was founded by Anton Finkl, a German-born blacksmith that arrived in Chicago in 1872. In 1879, Finkl developed a new kind of chisel to clean bricks from buildings destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, creating a new business opportunity. As the business expanded into steel products, the company moved around the Chicago West Loop area, absorbing several existing properties along the way. Buildings that were constructed for Standard Oil and Cummings Foundry Company became additional puzzle pieces in the web of plants utilized by A. Finkl & Sons.
DOUGLAS FIR VAT STOCK SALVAGED FROM THE FRUIT INDUSTRY—SALEM, OREGON
Recently we salvaged vintage Douglas fir material from Maraschino vats in Salem, Oregon, also known as “Cherry City.” Over 60,000 board feet were rescued during demolition and are available as paneling, flooring, board stock, and more.
Until the 1930s, the United States was getting much of its Maraschino Cherries from Europe. As the fertile Willamette Valley and Columbia River Gorge in Oregon yielded too many sweet cherries for the fresh-fruit and canned-fruit markets, farmers turned to the Maraschino process. To this day, Oregon Cherry Growers brine 45 million pounds of cherries a year!
Originally constructed during the 1930s and 1940s, these wooden vats have provided us with some “fruitful” wood (no pun intended!). Each Douglas fir plank provides three distinct Vat 35 grades: A silvery interior patina, a rugged brown exterior from generations of being exposed to nature’s elements, and a clean center cut which features shades of pink and gray staining from years of mingling with cherries.
As technology continues to expand in all industries, vats are being constructed more often with stainless steel as opposed to wood. We’re happy to be able to give new life to these aged planks that tirelessly provided the country with thousands and thousands of “cherries on top.”
FASHIONABLE FOUNDRY MAPLE RECLAIMED FROM CLOTHING FACTORY—OZARK, ALABAMA
Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation is mainly known for their men’s dress shirts, as they were first to invent the collar-attached dress shirt in 1920 under the Phillips-Hones Corporation. Over the decades many of their American clothing factories were closed or relocated. One of the few remaining manufacturing factories was ordered to close by May 15, 2006 as the manufacturing work was to move from Ozark, Alabama to facilities overseas. When we heard the news of the plant’s closing, we knew we’d be able to save the fashionable antique wood inside from permanently going out of season. We reclaimed 13,226 board feet of Foundry Maple with stylish colorings ranging from brown and golds, to greys with some lavender tones.
Part of this reclaimed Foundry Maple batch has already found new life and is rockin’ out in its new home at the Guitar Center in NYC. The remainder of this rescue is stacked neatly with our inventory, waiting for its next 100 years of work.
About Van Heusen:
Headquartered in New York City since 1914, they expanded their brand holdings and manufacturing plants to Albany NY, 5 Pennsylvania townships, and by 1950 they operated 12 plants serving over 6,000 stores with over 2,000 styles of garments. As fashion goes, one season they were in and the next they were out, but PVH finally hit their stride in the 1990s with a portfolio of brands including Van Heusen dress shirts, Bass shoes, Gant, Izod, Calvin Klein and Salty Dog brands as well as private-label shirts and sweaters for department stores like Bloomingdales and retailers such as Lands End.
The 90s also brought in a new President and CEO, Bruce J Klatsky, who’s a strong supporter of human rights for oversees workers, leading to changes in the company’s manufacturing policies to keep up with demand. With PVH’s revenue dipping over the years, Klatsky ordered three US shirt factories closed in 1995, choosing to move manufacturing overseas factories where labor and manufacturing was cheaper. By the late 90s, Van Heusen dress shirts were accounting for 23% of the company’s net sales, and were manufactured in Alabama, Arkansas, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras, as well as in independent factories in the Far & Middle East and throughout the Caribbean.
GLOVE FACTORY HANDS OVER FOUNDRY MAPLE—COSHOCTON, OHIO
Forming in 1930s, the Edmont Manufacturing facility in Coshocton, Ohio had a hand in developing some of the most widely used gloves today. When the factory in Coshocton closed in 2011, we rescued 18,000 square feet of tongue & groove square edge Foundry Maple, preventing it from ending up in a landfill. We also rescued an additional 300 square feet with the original gray paint on the wood, plus a metal hand (more on that below).
Foundry Maple’s unmatched coloring ranges from browns and golds to greys and the occasional lavender tones, and is full of texture, original distressing, and as mentioned, occasional original paint. It is an extremely durable hardwood that’s a very desirable material for old factory floors. Today we see the storied wood put directly back into use as flooring in high traffic spaces like retail stores. Its character only gets better with use, though for some venues the original look is preserved and celebrated as paneling.
Edward Montgomery took to his garage in the early 1930s, experimenting with developing a durable cotton glove. It was there he learned that if he took cotton gloves and dipped them in tire repair rubber then vulcanized them on a hot plate, he’d have a highly durable glove.
Moving to an abandoned factory in Cochocton, OH a few years later, the Edmont Manufacturing Company became the world’s largest producer of coated gloves, later developing a range of specialized rubber coatings for various jobs. Through mergers and acquisitions, Edmont Manufacturing established the core industrial business of Ansell Edmont Industrial, making Ansell the world’s largest producer and distributor of medical, household and industrial gloves today. (Some of the reclaimed flooring from the Glove Factory has found new life in The Cub Room in Rochester, NY, below.)
FOUNDRY MAPLE RECLAIMED FROM THE AMERICAN CRAYON COMPANY—SANDUSKY, OHIO
When we heard news of the closing of the historical American Crayon Company factory, we headed out to Sandusky, Ohio to rescue the wood bones of the building before it went to waste. We salvaged 2 truck-loads—that’s 24,000 board feet—of Foundry Maple. The old wood has endured thousands of footfalls, heavy machinery, and a smattering of colorful wax crayon materials.
The first superintendent of Sandusky, Ohio’s public schools wasn’t satisfied with the chunky chalks used on the boards in classrooms so he turned to his brother-in-law to create a new and improved chalk. William D. Curtis’ took the challenge and began experimenting in his kitchen in 1850 with what became, years later, the American Crayon Company. They became the largest employer in the area and produced many popular art products including crayons, chalk, watercolors, pencils, paste, and cleaners.
Over the years, American Crayon acquired many other companies, most notably Prang Educational Company with their trademark Old Faithful geyser logo in 1913, and Dixon Ticonderoga who expanded their industrial supplies line in 1984. The former merger slowly outsourced the labor and plant operations to Canada and Mexico, sadly forcing the Sandusky plant to close in 2002.
The flooring’s next life:
After leaving their old life behind in Ohio, the raw industrial salvaged Foundry Maple arrived at our eco-friendly shop in Upstate New York where we’re de-nailing and re-milling the planks into paneling, flooring, fixtures, and more to be used in commercial and residential spaces. Limited quantities are available and each ‘batch’ of this grade comes with one-of-a-kind often hard-earned texture, wear marks, and color.
Full of texture, and on occasion original paint, Foundry Maple can be put back into service with little or no finishing. Ranging from browns and golds to greys and occasional lavender tones, Foundry Maple offers unmatched color, original distressing, and character. While the reclaimed Foundry Maple may not be boldly colorful as the products that passed through the factory, the boards continue to maintain a vibrant history and unmatched durability.
ANTIQUE HEART PINE RECLAIMED FROM 1900S GENERAL ELECTRIC FACTORY—BLOOMFIELD, NEW JERSEY
Many of the buildings that were part of the General Electric Factory in Bloomfield, New Jersey were slated for demolition, their bones to be laid to rest in the landfill. Plans to demolish all but one building piqued our attention and led us to Bloomfield to prevent the wood from ending up as unnecessary waste. While the main building currently remains and is being converted into residential spaces, we reclaimed 81,500 BF of Long Leaf Heart Pine timbers as well as a small amount (15,900 BF) of Oak from several of the surrounding buildings.
Opening the doors to its 17 buildings in the 1900s, GE expanded to meet the demand for battery manufacturing. With over two thousand workers, and one of the largest local manufacturing facilities, they were busy producing the batteries behind communications systems as well as kinetoscope, wax for phonograph cylinders, x-ray equipment, medical instruments, electric fans, and later, much of the equipment for WWII. After a decline in the demand for manufacturing, the company vacated Bloomfield in 1959.
“Reclaimed Heart Pine is said to be the species our country was built on. Factories and mills, such as the GE Complex, were largely constructed using these pine timbers,” explained Jennifer Young, General Manager of Pioneer Millworks. “This was a large building and the Heart Pine used to construct it is today a highly desired species due to its dense grain patterns, deep patina, character, and of course, history.”
While the GE factories have run out of juice, their wooden timbers, posts, and planks will be reused around the world. Our goal is to continue to rescue 'old' wood from factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings giving it new life as flooring and other products for retail, commercial, and residential clients all from our eco-conscious mill in upstate New York. Beginning with raw industrial salvaged timbers, Pioneer Millworks mills board stock repurposing the antique wood into paneling, flooring, fixtures, and more to be used in commercial and residential spaces. To date, we have prevented over 20 million board feet of antique wood from ending up landfills or other wasteful disposal methods. “Old wood isn’t just about sustainability and beauty. It’s about carrying a piece of history forward,” added Jennifer.
ESQUIRE NOVELTY FACTORY HEART PINE TIMBERS—AMSTERDAM, NEW YORK
Dating from the turn of the last century, the Esquire Novelty Factory building was originally part of what was known as the Mohasco mills complex. Lured to the Southern States by lucrative financial incentives, the carpet mills vacated the site in the late 1950′s and 60′s. The property remained vacant until Esquire Novelty, following the lead of several other Toy manufacturers who relocated to Amsterdam in the 1970′s and 80′s, moved into the Building #17 which once housed the weave mill.
WOOD SALVAGED FROM UNDERWEAR FACTORY RE-USED IN SUPERMARKET FLAGSHIP—FAYETTE, ALABAMA
A prominent supermarket that recently opened in Rochester, New York features timbers, doors, and trim crafted of reclaimed Heart Pine by Pioneer Millworks sister company, New Energy Works Timberframers, fine woodworking group, NEWwoodworks. The antique pine, also known as Southern Yellow Pine, was salvaged by Pioneer Millworks during deconstruction of the Union Underwear Inc. cotton mill and factory in Alabama.
Beginning with raw industrial salvaged timbers, Pioneer Millworks milled board stock which NEWwoodworks crafted into custom pieces for the supermarket. “Heart Pine in its higher grades is a quality wood with great durability and density, and a bit of antique resin that requires patience and skill. It achieves a wonderful look that adds a unique flavor to any project,” said Rob D’Alessandro, General Manager of NEWwoodworks. “We enjoy the challenge of turning the bones of an old building into handcrafted pieces for commercial spaces and homes.”
Heart Pine doors in the restaurant celebrate crisp grain patterns and rich color tones complemented by wrought iron accents. Timbers with original patina bring warmth to the ceiling and reclaimed, natural edge walnut planks join with more Heart Pine in custom benches in the reception area.
“Reclaimed Heart Pine is said to be the species our country was built on. Factories and mills, such as Union Underwear, were largely constructed using these pine timbers,” explains Jennifer Young, Manager of Pioneer Millworks. “It is a highly desired species due to its dense grain patterns, deep patina, character, and of course, history.”
The Union Underwear Inc. mill was built in 1921 as the Fayette Cotton Mill. It was erected adjacent to the Brown Lumber Company. Logs were transported by rail to the lumber mill, sawn into hefty timbers (many as large as 9″ x 15″ x 26′), then used in the construction of the cotton mill next door. In 2003 the mill was shut down sitting dormant until it was carefully deconstructed in 2013.
BOWLING LANES SALVAGED FROM ICONIC OLYMPIC LANES—MENANDS, NEW YORK
Pioneer Millworks reclaimed a piece of pro-bowling history, re-purposing old bowling lanes into new products, preventing them from ending up in landfills, grinders, or unclean wood burners.
Olympic Lanes was once the largest bowling complex in New York State offering 80 lanes and hosting international and televised PBA events featuring pros like Pete Weber. Rather than allow the lanes to go to waste when the center closed, Pioneer Millworks salvaged them, keeping the original finishes and re-purposing the old wood for commercial and residential projects.
The lobby at Olympic Lanes displayed a saying: “The secret to becoming a better bowler is knowing where to put your feet.” The original foul line markers and arrows that at one time helped bowlers ranging from toddlers to professionals hit the pins were carefully maintained during reclamation and re-use of the lanes in custom projects.
Jered Slusser, wood expert at Pioneer Millworks, incorporated a few of the lanes into his kitchen as countertops, applying the final finish, a natural oil. “Talk about durable—2 1/4″ of solid hard Maple finished with a butcher block oil—the countertops will hold up for generations, and only get better with age,” he explains. “It is fun to share the history of the tops, especially once folks recognize the foul markers.”
Bowling lanes are fabricated one strip at a time, placed on edge to create a strong, durable surface. While they are often made of hard maple, the lower part of the lane, closer to the pins, was also commonly crafted of yellow pine. Pioneer Millworks has reclaimed over 200 yellow pine lanes at 10’ long and 50 maple lanes at 5’ long.
“This year we re-purposed the lanes into new tables for restaurants, in one case featuring the underside of the lanes which offered more character and color than the tops,” continues Slusser. “Not only are they a talking point, but they often evoke childhood memories of time spent with friends and family at the lanes. They are pieces of history and we’re excited to give them new life.”
On average Pioneer Millworks processes 1,062,000 board feet of reclaimed wood, including the bowling lanes, yearly. After 20+ years in business we have salvaged over 21,000,000 board feet that would otherwise end up in landfills, grinders, and unclean wood burners, or simply rot away. By reclaiming and reusing, Pioneer Millworks customers help save character filled antique wood and take another step towards preventing deforestation.
SETTLERS' PLANK RECLAIMED WOOD—NATIONAL
Pioneer Millworks’ Settlers’ Plank grade flooring is a practical recreation of the classic barn floor. Whole timbers and planks are reclaimed from barns and other agricultural buildings in the Eastern United States by our wood acquisition team. Often centuries old, the antique wood has outlived its use in the agricultural environment but finds new life in retail stores, offices, and homes across the nation.
(Settlers' Plank grade has a variety of uses from flooring to paneling, tabletops, and more.)
Pioneer Millworks carefully re-cuts and re-mills the old wood, maintaining the original saw marks, knots, wear marks, nail holes, scuffs, and naturally occurring vagaries. This more relaxed and rugged grade is available in Oak, Chestnut, and Mixed Hardwoods, offering a variety of color and grain patterns. Settlers’ Plank Mixed Hardwoods includes a number of reclaimed species from Oak to Hickory, Ash, Maple, Beech, Elm, and Chestnut.
(Our acquisition crew carefully dismantles ag buildings that have outlived their use.)
“When you think about the wood’s history, you see why it’s so prized: these timbers were cut in the late 1800’s from trees that probably started to grow in the 1600s. Now, after 100+ years supporting buildings, the timbers and planks begin anew, offering unmatched history, the beauty of tighter growth rings, greater stability, original wear marks, and deeper patinas,” says Jered Slusser, wood and design expert at Pioneer Millworks.
As the name reflects, Pioneer Millworks was a pioneer in the salvaged and reclaimed antique wood industry. They’re proud to give old wood new life as flooring, millwork, cabinetry, and more. They fully source and manufacture in the USA in Oregon and New York, in a way that’s healthy for you, their employees, and the environment. Their products offer ecologically conscious homeowners, designers, and builders an alternative to non-sustainable flooring, paneling and millwork without compromising quality, character, or selection. Pioneer Millworks is FSC certified and Green America approved. All of their products are LEED point eligible.
ANTIQUE WOOD SALVAGED FROM DEMOLITION OF OLD DREW FURNITURE FACTORY NORTH—WILKESBORO, NORTH CAROLINA
With the help of some demolition friends, we were able to reclaim over 100,000 feet of old wood from the original Drew Furniture Company factory in North Wilkesboro, NC. We'll give this old, often overlooked wood, new life as solid and engineered flooring, timber frames, custom cabinetry, furniture, fixtures, and millwork.
With the furniture factory out of use and falling into disrepair, destruction of building began. Some materials ended their journey in landfills or grinders, while we rescued 70,000 board feet of timbers, 80,000 square feet of flooring, and 80,000 square feet of sub-floor material. Some of the reclaimed square oak timbers are as large as 8”x16”. A mixture of flooring species was salvaged including oak, hickory, and maple. Much of the flooring has no paint, which is unusual for a structure of this age. The board widths vary from 2.25” and 3.25” while the original oak sub-floor offered wider 4” to 8” planks.
(Above: Inside the factory it is evident that demolition is the best course of action. Center and right: The reclaimed oak sub-flooring shows its character and beauty. Ferrous staining from old nails combines with lighter diagonal patina marks from where the boards sat against floor joists for decades.)
“If we stop and think about the history of this wood, we begin to see why it’s so prized: the timbers and flooring were cut in the 1900s from trees that probably started to grow in the 1700s. Now, after decades supporting this factory, the wood will begin a new life as eco-friendly flooring, furniture, and more for homes and businesses,” states Jered Slusser, our wood expert.
American made furniture was big business in the mid 1900’s. Founded in 1927, Drew Furniture Company merged with American Furniture Company in 1970 to become American Drew. With four factories in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina dating back to 1928, the well-established manufacturers had combined sales of about $15 million with over 19,000 employees. They produced mainstream bedroom, dining room, and occasional furniture through the 1990’s.
To date, Pioneer Millworks has saved over 20 million board feet of antique wood from landfills or other wasteful disposal methods. “The wood is valued for its grain pattern, durability, deep patina, and incredible character. And more often than not, the wood will show signs of its previous life with ferrous staining from nails or bolts, insect trails, and old joinery notches,” continues Slusser.
1800’S ANTIQUE TIMBERS RECLAIMED FROM THE CAMERON COLLIERY—SHAMOKIN, PENNSYLVANIA
Recently we reclaimed timbers from the old Cameron Colliery factory in Pennsylvania. The salvaged red oak timbers were re-cut and re-sawn into a timber frame home by our sister company New Energy Works Timber Frame Homes. While the home may be new, the frame has character and history unmatched by new materials.
Cindy Inkrote, Director of Northumberland County Historical Society, summarizes the history of the factory:
The Cameron Colliery located in Coal Township, near Shamokin, Pennsylvania, operated nearly continuously from 1837 to 1970 and produced more than 27 million tons of coal during that time. It was one of the largest anthracite mining operations in Northumberland County and shipped prepared anthracite coal via railcars and trucks. The remaining culm bank, the largest in the region, is evidence of the mine’s production through the years. The number of workers employed by the colliery peaked in 1899 when the mine employed more than 1500 men. Peak production occurred from 1934 until 1948. In 1942, the colliery recorded its highest annual production, 627,158 tons, during which daily production averaged more than 2,400 tons. Accidents claimed the lives of more than 200 workers during the colliery’s years of operation.
The Cameron Colliery, later known as the Glen Burn Colliery, was a major contributor to the Shamokin/Coal Township economy while it operated. The site is located along well-traveled State Highway Route 61, the main artery through Shamokin. The colliery was the largest operation along Route 61, which serves as the gateway into the anthracite-mining region of Northumberland and Schuylkill counties.
Reclamation efforts have begun at the site and regional power plants burn culm hauled from the massive bank to generate electricity giving the mine waste a useful purpose.
We’re glad to have taken part in the reclamation efforts. There is nothing better than finding new uses for something considered ‘waste’.
ANTIQUE WOOD FROM 1800’S WEHRLE STOVE FACTORY RESCUED—NEWARK, OHIO
We salvaged over 120,000 board feet of wood during the demolition of the Wehrle Stove Factory in Newark, Ohio—wood that otherwise might have been ground to dust or ended up in a landfill. Reclaimed oak, heart pine, eastern white pine, chestnut, and a few Ohio hardwoods were reclaimed from structural timbers, flooring, and trusses. We'll repurpose the wood into solid and engineered flooring, timber frames, custom cabinetry, furniture, fixtures, millwork, and more.
At its peak, the Wehrle Stove Factory employed nearly 3,000 workers helping to produce more than 900 – 1400 stoves per day in sixty-five different styles and three sizes. Beyond stoves, the Wehrle Factory manufactured fire-proof safes and kitchen utensils. In 1944 Sears acquired the factory, running it for twenty years before selling to the Roper Corporation and finally closing its doors in 1975. It then sat empty for decades. Now that the buildings have been removed, the site will be redeveloped to serve a new purpose.
“If we stop and think about the history of this wood, we begin to see why it’s so prized: these timbers were cut in the 1800s from trees that probably started to grow in the 1600s. Now, after 125 years supporting this factory, these timbers will begin a new life as eco-friendly flooring, furniture, and more for homes and businesses,” states Jered Slusser, our wood expert. “The wood is also valued for its grain pattern, durability, deep patina, and incredible character. And more often than not, the wood will show signs of its previous life with ferrous staining from nails or bolts, insect trails, and old joinery notches.”
(Timbers sorted during demolition)
To date, we have prevented over 20 million board feet of antique wood from ending up landfills or other wasteful disposal methods. Our goal is to continue to rescue 'old' wood from factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings giving it new life as flooring and other products for retail, commercial, and residential clients all from our eco-conscious mill in upstate New York.
RECLAIMED FROM THE NICHOLS AND STONE CHAIR COMPANY—GARDNER, MASSACHUSETTS
Constructing chairs was a profitable business in the early 20th century, particularly for Nichols & Stone Chair Company. Nichols & Stone moved at the turn of the 20th century to Gardner, MA. The “Chair City” earned its nickname as it was home to 20 chair companies, including Nichols & Stone. An oversized chair, quoted to be ‘the largest in the world’ at one point, served as the local icon and homage to the factories. Over 4 million chairs were produced per year by the early 1900s in Gardner. L & J.G. Stickley purchased the Nichols & Stone name, the intellectual property and the design rights when the company terminated production in 2008.
As with many factories, after production was stopped the decision was made to bring the old building down. We were happy to rescue Douglas fir and various antique hardwoods during the deconstruction of the Nichols & Stone building. Over 85,000 board feet of various wood species were reclaimed from the factory. The antique timbers were given new life as flooring, paneling, shelving and more in several projects including an L.L. Bean store.
To date, we have prevented over 20 million board feet of antique wood from ending up landfills or other wasteful disposal methods. Our goal is to continue to rescue 'old' wood from factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings giving it new life as flooring and other products for retail, commercial, and residential clients all from our eco-conscious mill in upstate New York.
SALVAGED PINE FROM ONONDAGA 1800S BREWERY—SYRACUSE, NEW YORK
The three-story, 1800’s brewery was owned by former Syracuse Mayor Thomas Ryan in 1865 and once brewed Ryan’s Pure Beer. With an abundant water supply, Syracuse was home to many breweries through the 1800s and 1900s. During its heyday, the timbers of this building housed several brewing companies including Haberle Brewing Co., Onondaga Brewery, Ryan’s Consumer Brewery and produced beers such as the Onondaga Lager. The Lager was distributed throughout the eastern US via the Erie Canal. A large electric sign showing a bottle of beer emptying into a schooner resided on the roof of the building and was an icon for the city. Even as the building awaited deconstruction the combination of art and industry glimmered in the exposed antique wood timbers and steel beams and original Beaux Arts medallions on the exterior brick.
As is typically the case with building demolition, the wood was considered of little value because of its age and signs of wear. It is often sent to landfills or ground to saw-dust. We were happy to rescue old growth, antique White Pine and Heart Pine timbers, estimated around 400 years old, during demolition.
If we stop and think about the history of this wood, we begin to see why it’s so prized: these timbers were cut in the mid-1800s from trees that probably started to grow in the 1600s. Now, after 145 years supporting this historical structure, these Heart Pine and White Pine timbers will begin a new life as eco-friendly flooring, paneling, and millwork for residential and commercial structures.
Visualizing this antique pine for your project? Check it out here.
MCCORMICK TRACTOR FACTORY—ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS
In 1926 construction began on the huge McCormick Harvesting Machine Company Farmall tractor factory, built solely to produce Farmall tractors. It covered over 50 acres with over 5,000 employees in its prime. The factory produced the 5,000,000 Farmall tractors in 1974. It was quite a facility with generations of workers building tractors. For more on the factory click here.
Champion Demolition, under project manager Rick Tooker's supervision, carefully dismantled the factory, recycling over 90% of the entire facility. Pioneer Millworks recovered several loads of antique timbers in a variety of species from the oldest parts of the factory. On arrival one wall, covered in murals, was still intact. The Pioneer Millworks crew captured pictures of the old artwork.
SCHMIDT'S BREWERY—PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
The 140-year old Schmidt’s Brewery in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia was a mammoth, 14-acre facility that employed more than 1,000 people to produce rivers of beer. The old brewhouse, which dates to the turn of the century, once looked like an opera house, with a mezzanine, decorative plaster moldings and walls of Italian marble tile. When the brewery closed in 1986, its capacity was in excess of 5,000,000 barrels per year. When they shut down it was the first time the city had been without a brewery in over 300 years.
You can be sure that our crew raised a few cans of Schmidt’s in tribute to the building’s wonderful Heart Pine wood.
SHEFFIELD VELOCIPEDE CAR CO. PLANT—THREE RIVERS, MICHIGAN
The Sheffield Velocipede Car Company was founded at Three Rivers, Michigan in the late 1870’s by George S. Sheffield. The firm’s initial product was a three-wheeled track-inspection car apparently invented by Sheffield. These cars were powered by a combination of hand and foot levers operated in a push-pull action. At about 140 lbs., they were light enough to be swung off the tracks to make way for trains. One authority says Sheffield received a U.S. patent for a single seat tricycle design in 1879 and for a two-seat tricycle design in 1882.
Thanks to Hayes and his website for this information. We were happy to reclaim Heart Pine timbers from the original structure.
LIBRARY BUREAU OF HERKIMER—HERKIMER, NEW YORK
In 1876 Melville Dewey started the Readers’ and Writers’ Economy Company, later renamed the Library Bureau. The company’s purpose was to furnish and equip libraries with furniture that conformed to the new American Library Association standards. Dewey, the “Father of Modern Librarianship,” is perhaps best knows for his invention of the decimal classification system that bears his name.
The Herkimer plant continued to produce library furniture throughout a series of mergers. It eventually ended up as the Mohawk Valley Community Corporation. Pioneer Millworks salvaged more than 85,000 board feet of heavy hemlock timbers from the structure.
WELLAND CANAL TIMBERS—NIAGARA, ONTARIO
The falls and rapids of the Niagara River presented a major obstacle for an uninterrupted waterway from the Atlantic Ocean to the American heartland. To circumvent the river, the Welland Canal, with its eight large locks, was built. Initiated by local businessmen, the first canal was built in 1829. The present-day Welland Canal is the fourth to be constructed. The difference of 99.5 m (326.5 feet) between the levels of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is now overcome with eight locks and 43.4 km (27 miles) of canal.
During renovations of the third canal in 1927, Douglas fir timbers were installed in Lock N0. 8, one of the longest canal locks in the world. These huge 37” x 42” x 48’ timbers, each weighing over 20,000 lbs, are now resting in our yard.
GENERAL MOTORS FACTORY—TONAWANDA, NEW YORK
The General Motors engine manufacturing plant in Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo, is the largest complex of its kind in the world. The 3,800 workers at this 2.5-million-square-foot engine manufacturing complex produce four, six, and eight-cylinder engines. The original GM factory was constructed in 1937 and overlooked the Niagara River. This Chevrolet Motor and Axle Plant initially produced six-cylinder motors and axle assemblies. Between 1941 and 1945, the plant produced 14- and 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney aircraft engines and G.E. jet engines. After numerous reorganizations and building expansions, the plant eventually became the GM Powertrain Group, Tonawanda Engine in 1990.
General Motors began operations in its new “agile manufacturing” plant in 2003. The $500 million, 600,000-square-foot engine plant will manufacture the GM Vortec engines to be used in GM trucks. The demolition of Plant No. 5 to make room for the new plant resulted in our salvaging Douglas fir rafters from the building’s roof.
BAYONNE MILITARY OCEAN TERMINAL—NEW JERSEY
The Bayonne facility was opened by the Navy in 1942 as a logistics and repair base. In 1967, the peninsula became a US Army base. It was an enormous shipping terminal and had the largest drydock on the eastern seaboard.
From this terminal, ships carried supplies for every major US military operation from World War II to the Persian Gulf and Haitian missions. At its peak, the base employed about 3,000 personnel and consistently handled more than one million tons of cargo per year.
With the end of the Cold War, the federal government began closing down US military bases, including Bayonne. In 2001 we salvaged Douglas fir timbers from the terminal after its demolition.
ROYAL CANADIAN AIRFORCE HANGERS—CANADA
At the start of the Second World War, the British government looked to the Empire and Dominions for air training support. Between 1940 and 1945, some 151 schools were established across Canada, with a ground organization of 104,113 men and women. At the plan’s peak, 94 schools operating at 231 sites across Canada involved 10,840 aircraft. The construction of the training schools was a massive undertaking in itself, with each site requiring the construction of several huge hangars and dozens of other buildings. At a cost of more than $1.6 billion, 131,552 pilots, navigators, bombardiers, wireless operators, air gunners and flight engineers graduated.
The massive one story timbered hangars that were built for these training schools used high grade Douglas fir from British Columbia. Today, as many of these halls are torn down, we are looking to find good homes for the salvaged timber that has been such an important part of the world history.
BUSTER BROWN SHOE FACTORY- MOBERLY, MISSOURI
Foundry Maple flooring was part of the Buster Brown Shoe Factory located in Moberly, Missouri. The factory was demolished in 2004, but its original flooring was removed, wire brushed, and refinished by Pioneer Millworks. The factory itself was used to manufacture the Buster Brown and Naturalizer shoe lines circa 1906, and at one point was also used to manufacture gymnasium equipment. The marks, checks, and holes you see on the floor are original, subtle reminders that this floor was a working man’s floor and part of America’s industrial heritage.
OLD GROWTH HEART PINE FROM UNITED STATES LEATHER COMPANY—NEW JERSEY
We recovered 200,000 board feet of old growth heart pine timbers from the old United States Leather Company in New Jersey. Constructed in 1901, the building first housed the David Moffat Company, which later became the United States Leather Company. As you may have guessed, they manufactured leather products, specifically harnesses. Interestingly, the United States Leather Co. was one of the original twelve companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The timbers used in the construction of this building were some of the last old growth long leaf heart pine trees harvested for industrial buildings. Only 2% of these old growth forests remain today. We estimate that these timbers were 200 years when they were cut down, making them witness to the last 300 or so years of American history. Imagine what these beams have seen! If you would like to get a hold of some of this gorgeous old growth heart pine now, call or email Michele for details.
HEART PINE AND WHITE PINE RECLAIMED FROM DELAWARE & HUDSON—ONEONTA, NEW YORK
The Delaware & Hudson railroad was one of the oldest continually operating transportation companies in the country. The company's roots were as a Pennsylvania-based canal company in 1828, operating from Honesdale, PA to Kingston, NY. Through the construction of its first railroad line in 1868, expansions, leases, and acquisitions, the D&H became known as "The Bridge Line", linking central Pennsylvania with Canada, through subsidiary Napierville Junction south of Montreal. As the railroad grew, their need for centralized maintenance facilities became apparent.
The growing village of Oneonta, New York was chosen for its central location along the line, and in the early 1870's, construction of a large railroad yard and shops began. Besides the tremendous roundhouse, once the largest in the world, a second vast structure hundreds of feet long was erected to house the railcar repair shops. Within these ornamental brick walls, freight and passenger cars were repaired, refurbished, and maintained to keep the D&H's fleet operating smoothly.
Like many railroads, the D&H underwent numerous changes in ownership during the harsh economic times of the late 60's and early 70's. They managed to survive without inclusion into Conrail in 1976, which actually added trackage and route miles, and gave them newer locomotives as part of the government's effort to sustain operating railroads in the northeast. Into the mid-1980s the shops continued work on the company's freight car fleet, through acquisition by Guilford Industries, and the subsequent near-collapse of the railroad. Canadian Pacific saw the benefits of a line from Montreal to Pennsylvania, and in 1990, purchased the railroad, saving it once again. The shops in Oneonta have not been as lucky though, as larger facilities have been closed down and replaced with much smaller shops at key points along the line. The car repair shops were last used in the mid-1990's, and since then have housed track maintenance crews and their materials.
Citing the use of a smaller structure in its place, Canadian Pacific had the car repair shops demolished in December of 2008, ending the structure's nearly 140-year vigil over the nearby D&H mainline. Pioneer Millworks has proudly and painstakingly recovered the Heart Pine and White Pine timbers from this structure, helping to give new life to one of America's oldest railroad-owned structures.
Once at our mill, the timbers will be scanned for nails and other metal artifacts, then planed into planks for tongue and groove flooring (solid or engineered), ceilings or other handcrafted millwork. Own a piece of American railroad history today - wood with character and a story. Call or email today to see which type of pine would be perfect for you: 585.924.9970
MERSMAN TABLE FACTORY TIMBERS—CELINA, OHIO
The Mersman Table Factory was built in 1905. If you do a Google search under "Mersman Table Factory" you will also find some interesting information linking the Lindbergh baby kidnapping to a Mersman table.
The factory survived WWI and II, and of course the Great Depression, where they were buoyed by a good cost-value ratio and therefore sold well, despite the times. Sound familiar? Research also turned up this Mersman corner table (image 2) on Ebay. Sorry, you are too late.
This mannequin head was floating in water in the basement and our wood buyer, Michele, spotted her in the flashlight beam as she started down the stairs. Says Michele, "My gasp was very entertaining to the guys showing me the building. I think they may have planted her there."
There were a variety of species in the beams from this factory including Elm, Beech, Douglas fir, and Oak. These beams are set to be re-sawn and re-raised as a residential timber frame on the west coast. To learn more about this project visit: vermontstreetproject.com