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Prime Times: 19th century granary reclaimed for 21st century homes
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White pine milled over 126 years ago along the shores of Lake Superior is finding new life in northwoods homes and businesses courtesy of a northwoods sawmill.

With an eye on sustaining natural resources, the Rhinelander-based Enterprise Wood Products is reclaiming massive timber slabs from long-closed grain elevators along the shores of Lake Superior.

“The buildings from which we get our reclaimed wood may have outlived their usefulness, but the wood is ready to serve another 100 years,” Tom Ory, vice-president on Enterprise Wood Products, said.

The finished products are one-of-a-kind pine flooring, paneling and timbers, complete with the holes that once held the square nails that pegged the slabs together.

Enterprise has several sources for reclaimed wood, including old barns and other structures, but the lion’s share of is supply comes from The Globe Elevators, constructed in 1887 by The Duluth Elevator Company. Designed by A.J. Sawyer, they consisted of an integrated system that was able to convey grain between a head house and two storage buildings. Between 2,000 and 3,000 workers were employed to build the structures, which carried a price tag of $700,000.

Elevator No. 1, standing nearly 150 feet high at the ridge, was constructed with a timber-framed ground level, a middle level of grain bins of solid-stacked dimension lumber walls and a timber framed upper portion. The two storage elevators were each over 465 feet long, creating a granary capacity of 5 million bushels.

Each of the three elevators contained over 2 million board feet of lumber and the structures today contribute the world’s largest known supply of virgin forest old-growth Eastern White Pine.

The elevators were used for decades to store Minnesota wheat, which would then be transported across Lake Superior and through the Soo Locks to markets across the nation and beyond.

They had outlived their usefulness by 1988 but remain standing at the edge of the Duluth waterfront, in an area highly prized for redevelopment, placing their future in peril.

In 2005, a company was formed to salvage all that valuable old-growth lumber, which remains in largely pristine condition. The project was so remarkable that it drew a nod from the Axmen reality television show broadcast on The History Channel last winter.

That company has since gone into bankruptcy, but salvage operations continue.

“No wood harvested within our generation can compare with the density and stability of this true old growth wood,” Ory said. “The pine has a unique patina that comes from over a century of oxidation, seasonal moisture content changes and exposure to natural grain particles.”

The salvaged materials come to Enterprise Wood Product sawmill, located just a few miles off the west side of Pelican Lake, in huge slabs. They are disassembled the old-fashioned way, by hand, using a hammer and series of plastic wedges.

“We’ve tried using various mechanical methods, but they just don’t work,” Ory says. “It damages the wood.”

Once they are taken apart, the wood timbers are trimmed and the thousands and thousands of square-headed nails, many in pristine condition, are removed.

“We’re trying to think of ways to reuse the hardware,” Ory said, adding that any process would be incredibly time-consuming. One idea is to saw off the nails and place the heads back in the holes.”

The wood is then kiln dried and the two inch thick timbers are sawed in half lengthwise to create the correct depth for flooring and other applications and preserve the original wood faces.

The final product is then shipped a few miles north to the mill’s showroom just outside of Rhinelander, where the various stains are applied and the proper lengths cut for custom products.

The final products include reclaimed timbers perfect for framing, mantels, architectural accents and furniture. There is also 3/4 inch thick paneling and flooring available in either rough-sawn or planed surfaces, with a variety of staining options; and surfaces.

Ory said the finished pieces are providing to be very popular with consumers.

“The product has proven to be very attractive for customers looking for something different and unique,” Ory said, adding that the appeals exists on several levels, including appearance and a desire to reuse something that would otherwise be discarded.

Even after the better part of a decade, only a portion of Elevator No. 1 has been salvaged.

“There are millions of board feet of timbers in those elevators,” Ory said, and the sawmill currently has about 75,000 board feet at the mill for processing.

But time is ticking on the future of the elevators, and there are no guarantees that the structures won’t eventually be demolished.

“Reclaimed wood is a really cool product and something that I enjoy working with,” Ory said. “This wood isn’t going to be around forever and we want to preserve and salvage as much of it as we can.”


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Prime Times: 19th century granary reclaimed for 21st century homes
space
White pine milled over 126 years ago along the shores of Lake Superior is finding new life in northwoods homes and businesses courtesy of a northwoods sawmill.

With an eye on sustaining natural resources, the Rhinelander-based Enterprise Wood Products is reclaiming massive timber slabs from long-closed grain elevators along the shores of Lake Superior.

“The buildings from which we get our reclaimed wood may have outlived their usefulness, but the wood is ready to serve another 100 years,” Tom Ory, vice-president on Enterprise Wood Products, said.

The finished products are one-of-a-kind pine flooring, paneling and timbers, complete with the holes that once held the square nails that pegged the slabs together.

Enterprise has several sources for reclaimed wood, including old barns and other structures, but the lion’s share of is supply comes from The Globe Elevators, constructed in 1887 by The Duluth Elevator Company. Designed by A.J. Sawyer, they consisted of an integrated system that was able to convey grain between a head house and two storage buildings. Between 2,000 and 3,000 workers were employed to build the structures, which carried a price tag of $700,000.

Elevator No. 1, standing nearly 150 feet high at the ridge, was constructed with a timber-framed ground level, a middle level of grain bins of solid-stacked dimension lumber walls and a timber framed upper portion. The two storage elevators were each over 465 feet long, creating a granary capacity of 5 million bushels.

Each of the three elevators contained over 2 million board feet of lumber and the structures today contribute the world’s largest known supply of virgin forest old-growth Eastern White Pine.

The elevators were used for decades to store Minnesota wheat, which would then be transported across Lake Superior and through the Soo Locks to markets across the nation and beyond.

They had outlived their usefulness by 1988 but remain standing at the edge of the Duluth waterfront, in an area highly prized for redevelopment, placing their future in peril.

In 2005, a company was formed to salvage all that valuable old-growth lumber, which remains in largely pristine condition. The project was so remarkable that it drew a nod from the Axmen reality television show broadcast on The History Channel last winter.

That company has since gone into bankruptcy, but salvage operations continue.

“No wood harvested within our generation can compare with the density and stability of this true old growth wood,” Ory said. “The pine has a unique patina that comes from over a century of oxidation, seasonal moisture content changes and exposure to natural grain particles.”

The salvaged materials come to Enterprise Wood Product sawmill, located just a few miles off the west side of Pelican Lake, in huge slabs. They are disassembled the old-fashioned way, by hand, using a hammer and series of plastic wedges.

“We’ve tried using various mechanical methods, but they just don’t work,” Ory says. “It damages the wood.”

Once they are taken apart, the wood timbers are trimmed and the thousands and thousands of square-headed nails, many in pristine condition, are removed.

“We’re trying to think of ways to reuse the hardware,” Ory said, adding that any process would be incredibly time-consuming. One idea is to saw off the nails and place the heads back in the holes.”

The wood is then kiln dried and the two inch thick timbers are sawed in half lengthwise to create the correct depth for flooring and other applications and preserve the original wood faces.

The final product is then shipped a few miles north to the mill’s showroom just outside of Rhinelander, where the various stains are applied and the proper lengths cut for custom products.

The final products include reclaimed timbers perfect for framing, mantels, architectural accents and furniture. There is also 3/4 inch thick paneling and flooring available in either rough-sawn or planed surfaces, with a variety of staining options; and surfaces.

Ory said the finished pieces are providing to be very popular with consumers.

“The product has proven to be very attractive for customers looking for something different and unique,” Ory said, adding that the appeals exists on several levels, including appearance and a desire to reuse something that would otherwise be discarded.

Even after the better part of a decade, only a portion of Elevator No. 1 has been salvaged.

“There are millions of board feet of timbers in those elevators,” Ory said, and the sawmill currently has about 75,000 board feet at the mill for processing.

But time is ticking on the future of the elevators, and there are no guarantees that the structures won’t eventually be demolished.

“Reclaimed wood is a really cool product and something that I enjoy working with,” Ory said. “This wood isn’t going to be around forever and we want to preserve and salvage as much of it as we can.”


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