Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Part Two: Reclaimed Lumber in the Big Apple

Blogger's Note: The continued story from the front page article in the New York Times about Reclaimed Lumber from the Domino Sugar Factory taking the Big Apple by storm. 

From the New York Times Article "
Salvaging a Long­ Lasting Wood, and New York City's Past"

As the timber industry gobbled through northeastern and western forests, it began turning to the longleaf pine, also known as yellow or heart pine, that covered as many as 90 million acres from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas and northern Florida, a forest where John Muir wrote in 1867 that he had “sauntered in delightful freedom.”

Some of the trees were three centuries old. Dense, durable and saturated with resin that made it unusually resistant to rot and insects, the timber proved rough work for builders to mill. But in the decades before steel began to dominate, longleaf pine was the strongest material around.

“Everybody in the wood business says the longleaf pine tree was the best wood the Lord ever made,” said Pat Fontenot, the owner of Olde Wood Accents in Washington, La., an antique pine dealer. “If it wouldn’t have been for the longleaf pine tree, we wouldn’t have been able to do the Industrial Revolution.”

The largest mass of longleaf pine in the city probably sits under the two towers of the Brooklyn Bridge. Completed in 1883, the bridge was built using caissons, essentially enormous airtight timber chambers that engineers sank into the riverbed, allowing workers inside to dig deeper into the earth below and workers above water to construct stone towers on top.

By 1938, the Great Southern Lumber Company, based in Pennsylvania, had sold its last longleaf pine log. Only about 3 percent of the original old growth forest survives, according to the United States Forest Service. Pine harvested today comes from farmed trees that are cut down young.

The only way to find original ­strength longleaf pine these days: Mine it from buildings like the Domino Sugar Factory or 443 Greenwich Street in TriBeCa, the brick and mortar vertebrae of northern cities’ industrial might.

“It’s a Southern tree that has been a part of New York City for 150 years,” Alan Solomon, the owner of Sawkill Lumber, who hunts down old lumber, from the Coney Island boardwalk to a Western Beef supermarket in the Bronx, said during a recent expedition to the TriBeCa building. “The city’s always reinventing itself. Stuff’s always getting knocked down.” It has taken Mr. Solomon’s team a year and a half to strip the brick ­and stone Romanesque Revival plant in TriBeCa, finished in 1883, of all its pine. The building’s tenants have included the Novelty Toy Company, which is said to have produced the first teddy bear; the American Steel Wool factory; a printing house; and, as manufacturing jobs drained out of the city, studios for architects, filmmakers and artists.

Stay tuned for the rest of the article!