Reclaiming from the Iconic Centennial Mills in Portland, OR

Douglas fir timbers reclaimed from Centennial Mills.

Douglas fir timbers reclaimed from Centennial Mills.

We’re salvaging 400,000 board feet of timbers and planks during the selective deconstruction of Centennial Mills in Portland, Oregon. Deconstruction of five warehouses and several old grain elevators, deemed beyond repair and unsafe, began in September 2015 and is expected to be complete by June 2016. To date, seven tractor-trailer loads of Douglas fir timbers and cribbing planks have been transported to our McMinnville, Oregon yard.

“Ideally, we’ll be working to get as much of the reclaimed material back into the Portland market as possible,” said Jonathan our president and founder. We’ll have samples on hand in our design studio in Portland, OR.

Dismantling one of the grain elevators at the mill.

Dismantling one of the grain elevators at the mill.

“Some of the wood can be re-used as heavy timber and beams, while some will be re-milled for use as paneling or flooring,” continued Jonathan. (You can read more on the history of the mill on our Unearth the Story page.)

Centennial Mills, Portland OR

Centennial Mills, Portland OR

The Centennial Mills site is owned by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and lies within Portland’s River District urban renewal area. “Working with Pioneer Millworks enabled us to streamline the salvage process, ensure the repurposing of as much material as possible, and return funds to the project budget,” said PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton. “We view this as a very successful partnership and look forward to hearing about how and where Centennial Mills materials live on throughout the Northwest.”

Originally we hoped to salvage about 800,000 board feet of timber from the Centennial Mills site. However, due to rot and the difficult cost benefits of saving all the smaller pieces, that number has been reduced. We continue to work towards salvaging more of the wood, but politics make things sticky. The salvaged wood is of an exceptional grain quality and we’re excited to share it with our customers.

First stages of removal of a grain elevator at Centennial Mills.

First stages of removal of a grain elevator at Centennial Mills.

After passing an emergency declaration in December 2014 relating to the condition of Centennial Mills, the PDC enlisted Tigard, OR-based Northwest Demolition & Dismantling for the selective demolition and salvage of the property. Demolition of Warehouses A, B, C, D, and F as well as Elevators A, B, and C began the first week of October 2015 and is scheduled to conclude in June 2016. The subsequent phase is slated to begin in July 2016.

If you’re interested in helping keep some of this historic wood in Portland, or if you have a great project that will give it new life, let us know. We’d be happy to provide samples.

Custom Eco-Friendly Engineered Floor Made from Reclaimed Bleacher Boards

Here at Pioneer Millworks we have a menu of more than 50 standard products. But we continue to push the envelope and work with clients who come to us with their own unique vision. In fact, nearly half of all the jobs we do each year are custom. We love these partnerships into uncharted waters and all the challenges that they entail. The extra sweat and tears spent in the production of these orders often leaves us feeling especially proud of the end results.

One recent custom order of which passed through nearly every hand in our shop was 8,000 square feet of Eco-Friendly Engineered Floor made from Reclaimed Douglas Fir Bleachers. Destined for a large corporate headquarters in California, here is what was involved:

  1. Bleachers were sourced from across the nation, from Webster, New York to Portland, Oregon and numerous stops in-between. Because only solid Douglas Fir bleachers could be used for this order, our acquisitions team traveled across the country to find the perfect stock. This was something of a treasure hunt as most bleachers that were installed in the last 50 years are plastic, pine or laminates. Bleacher - 0
    reclaimed bleacher board art pioneer millworks

    Some of the gum and graffiti we found on our collection of boards.

    Bleacher - 1Bleacher - 2
    2.After the bleachers were cut to 8′ lengths (the length of the plywood), we fully surfaced each board in our moulder and put them in our kiln for several days. This brought all the wood to a consistent moisture content and killed any nasty fungus that might have resided after decades of sweaty gym shorts leaving their mark (we learned this the hard way).Bleacher - 3Bleacher - 4Bleacher - 5

  2. The holes left from the original carriage bolts which once secured the bleachers to a metal frame, are drilled out and filled with custom plugs. Our detail oriented crew did an exceptional job matching the grain of the plugs to the grain of each board. Bleacher - 6Bleacher - 7Bleacher - 8Bleacher - 9Bleacher - 10Bleacher - 11
  3. Once plugged, each board was again surfaced in the moulder and then run through our frame saw. Here, a series of blades sawed each board into three thin wear layers.
    Bleacher - 12

    Going in.

    Coming out.

    Coming out.

    Bleacher - 14

  4. On our glue line, each wear layer was carefully adhered to a FSC Baltic Birch plywood substrate. Bleacher - 15Bleacher - 16Bleacher - 17
  5. Finally, these glued-up boards were run through the moulder a third and final time where the tongue and groove was milled. After defecting out any remaining irregularities, each board was end-matched and stacked to ship. Bleacher - 18Bleacher - 19Bleacher - 20Bleacher - 21Bleacher - 22Bleacher - 23Bleacher - 24

I think that it is safe to say that everyone involved in the project is especially proud of this beautiful one of a kind floor. Keep the custom projects coming!

 

Where Did This Reclaimed Timber Come From? Ask Nolan!

Nolan

Meet Nolan

This is Nolan. We met this summer while I was traveling in Alabama, sourcing reclaimed timbers for our sister company New Energy Works. It was 107 degrees in the town of Fayette where the demolition was underway of a former Union Underwear Inc. mill (makers of Fruit of the Loom). As I measured and photographed the timbers which had been carefully plucked from the wreckage, I was approached by an older gentleman in a white pick-up truck. I had seen him earlier driving around the site, chatting to the workers and keeping an eye on the activity, and had assumed that he was some sort of foreman or security employee. After a warm greeting he inquired as to what I was doing. We spoke and it turned out that he was not an employee of the demolition company, but rather a kindly man name Nolan who had retired from the mill in 1985 and had taken on the role of something akin to town historian. He lived nearby and liked to monitor the progress of the mill’s demolition. This day he was there to gather some bricks to add to his collection of mill memorabilia.

Reclaimed timbers

Union Underwear Inc. demolition site.

Our customers are constantly asking about the origin of the wood that they buy. Often we can tell them that it came from a barn in a neighboring state or a factory in a nearby city. When we meet a fellow like Nolan it’s like striking gold!

 

 

After showing this Yankee a southern trick for keeping cool (wearing a water soaked dish rag around your neck),

Here I am sporting some southern airconditioning (i.e. a wet dishrag around my neck).

Nolan headed home to have lunch with his wife and to see if he could dig up any pictures or documents related to the old mill. An hour later he returned with not only pictures and documents but also a bag of tomatoes, cucumbers and an ear of cooked and buttered corn wrapped in foil. I thanked him effusively for his generosity.

Upon my return to upstate NY, I received a manila envelope from Nolan filled with more documents which was followed by another delivery a month later.  This one contained photographs (including one picturing some massive catfish that Nolan caught this summer) and a sweet “Mystery Money Changer”.

I use it around the office to try and con folks out of a bill or two.

So what did I learn? The Union Underwear Inc. mill was built in 1921 as the Fayette Cotton Mill. The factory was built 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. Nolan’s father worked at the lumber mill at this time and was sadly the victim of a fatal accident.

reclaimed timber source

old photo of the Fayette Cotton Mill

Nolan himself began work at the Cotton Mill in 1944 and except for the two years he spent in the service during the Korean war, worked there for 39 years. Since the mill closed in September 2003, the town of Fayette has certainly felt the loss of a major employer, but Nolan has made it a mission to keep the memories alive. Our correspondence continues, and we share what we learn with the clients who have given the wood from The Union Underwear Inc. mill a second life.

It should also be noted that the wood that we have reclaimed from this mill has been some of the nicest material we’ve seen in a long time. Just look at the dense grain in this beautiful Douglas Fir timber that we recently used for a job!

Thanks again Nolan.

 

 

Mile-High Reclaimed Wood in Denver

I had never been to Denver, except for a prolonged visit to the airport several years ago.  So last month, I flew out to meet some people and see some of Pioneer Millworks‘ finished work. Even though many commercial and retail projects are consistent from one location to the next, it is always gratifying to see how our reclaimed wood is integrated with other aspects of design.

My first stop was a small womens clothing store that opened a couple of years back – No doubt, the floor has gotten better with age.  Even the staff at the store knows it!

Old paint, scratches, dents & dings, and absolutely beautiful.

Salvaged from a factory in Michigan, the occasional stripes of paint help to make the floor come to life, along with the scratches and dents imparted by decades of use. Sometimes the floors aren’t the only things with stories to tell. A woman that works at the store explained that just days before my visit, a newlywed couple had come in twice – first on their own, and second with their interior designer – to look at the flooring and use it in their new home. We love it when a design makes that kind of an impression.

Just down the corridor is another gem, where the floor was crafted from Yellow Pine planks recycled from a grain mill in Arkansas. A trend in both residential and commercial design is to celebrate the beauty of imperfection, which this floor does exceptionally.

Surprisingly smooth from years of use

The undulating surface, tonal differences from one plank to the next, and even some subtle texture caused by years of grain rushing past, makes for a perfect backdrop for the clothing. Some of the fixtures in the store make use of our reclaimed Douglas Fir as well.

Though I didn’t need any makeup, I dropped by this cosmetics store, which uses our barn siding on the exterior of many of their new locations. The dark and rich tones in the barnwood are selected such that when installed, the brightly lit interior of the store stands out. At the same time, the siding creates a highly textured facade that keeps the continuity of natural materials and products.

Variegated colors, textures, and signs of previous – quite a contrast to the surroundings!

Lastly, I noticed some familiar looking shutters made with our Attic Collection reclaimed softwoods. These are a great example of our capabilities beyond floors and walls, having been fabricated in our own shop. Even though these are heavily whitewashed, the randomized texture from the original and planed surfaces is a crucial part of the overall design. This variation breaks up the color of the shutters to help them stand out from the background wall color.

Shutters? Yep – we make those too!

Denver, and the entire Rocky Mountain region, is well served by either of our two locations. This helps to keep shipping costs down, with a faster lead time on a broader selection of products. If you have a chance to stop by the local shopping malls in the Mile High City, feel free to check out these stores for yourself. I’m hopeful that not long from now, we’ll have more projects to share.