Re-Reclaimed: 500 year-old timbers begin their third life

We’re a bit wood obsessed (yeah, we know it’s pretty obvious!) and we are often infatuated with the character and history of antique, reclaimed wood. When that wood happens to be massive, 37″ x 42″ x 48′ timbers that were at least 400 years old when the trees were harvested, we’re all staggered. These timbers, originally from the Welland Canal Lock, have become one of our most iconic reclamation and reuse stories. Today they are in their fourth life (or third use) at Point of the Bluff Vineyards in the Finger Lakes Region of NY. But first, a little history: 

37″ x 42″ x 48′ timbers from the Welland Canal Lock. The trees were at least 400 years old when they were harvested in the early 1900’s. 


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 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. As the canal locks were updated/repaired, the wood was removed in the late ’90s and the enormous timbers, each weighing over 20,000 lbs, headed to our Farmington, NY yard.   

Jered expressing his love for the old canal timbers.


Once in our yard, we began sharing their story with everyone, including our sister company New Energy Works. They had the right-fit client looking to build a timber frame restaurant on nearby Canandaigua Lake. Our denailing team set about removing the metal artifacts from the big timbers–the use of forklifts and heavy chains were required! The result: Steamboat Landing’s Cove Restaurant reclaimed frame which was raised nearly 20 years ago.

Removing the heavy bolts and bars from the timbers took machine level persuasion.

An Alaskan Mill, or chainsaw mill, is required to resaw the large timbers.

 

Steamboat Landing’s Cove Restaurant.

 

Interior of Steamboat Landing’s Cove Restaurant’s reclaimed timber frame by New Energy Works.


In 2015 the restaurant was slated for demolition, doomed by incoming development. The same timber frame craftsmen from New Energy Works who had worked on Steamboat Landing’s Cove Restaurant frame years back carefully dismantled it. The timbers once again returning to our yard.

It is a testament to the durability of wood and build quality of timber framing as a construction method that this demolition/salvage was even possible.


Point of the Bluff Vineyards was interested in giving the old timbers another use. Along with the New Energy Works design team, they envisioned an event and tasting space situated at the top of their vineyards with open views of Keuka Lake.

New Energy Works timber framers re-raised the frame, the 3rd use of the reclaimed Welland Canal Douglas fir timbers, to form Point of the Bluff Vineyards event space overlooking Keuka Lake.

Music, dancing, and celebration have already filled the space during 2019, their first season. Gatherings and festivities will continue to be sheltered by these old trees for years to come. Photo (c) Don Cochran Photography

 

Inside the Point of the Bluff event pavilion. Photo (C) Don Cochran Photography

Along with most of the Douglas fir timbers, the original cupola was preserved and re-used inside the Point of the Bluff pavilion. Photo (C) Don Cochran Photography


To see the timbers continue to have a purpose, now with Point of the Bluff Vineyards, is a best-case scenario. Other timbers from the canal have been repurposed into timber frames, fine furniture, flooring, and more.

The MUJI store in Portland, OR created a display that utilizes an end of an original timber complete with hard-earned patina, texture, and bolt holes.

 

A Rochester, NY restaurant made space for two heavy 6″x32″x10′ slabs crafted from the Welland Timbers by NEWwoodworks. The resulting community-style tables have fresh sawn tops showing the Douglas fir’s mineral staining and tight grain with original as-found timber edges.

 

Our very own long-time Acquisitions Leader, Michele, sourced the Welland Canal timbers and later celebrated her wedding under them within the Cove Restaurant.



Today we have a single “chunk” of the Welland Canal timbers remaining. While we’re a bit sad to see the last of these once-in-a-lifetime timbers, we have many other agricultural and industrial salvaged timbers with remarkable histories, textures, and tones that continue to fulfill our wood dreams. Like these long and large Douglas fir timbers reclaimed in Portland OR, now situated in our McMinnville, OR yard that top out at 22″x38″x52′:

And large logs from the Willamette River in Oregon that are teeming with sculptural texture:

Our thanks to lovely Luca for modeling!

 

You can read more stories and click through reuse images on our website. Let us know what timber, reclaimed or other, that you’re interested in. 

As-found timbers with original patina in MUJI.

 

Hand-hewn timbers salvaged from a barn in Ohio found new life in an upstate NY home.

 

Industrial reclaimed timbers from the Mersman Table Factory were re-sawn then repurposed in a large retail store as supports for their center display area.

 

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