Portland Wood, Hometown Stories

Big timbers, clean wood, rugged wood—all local! Three iconic buildings in Portland, Oregon have reached the end of their lifecycle and we’re bringing you the salvaged timbers, boards, and more:

After nearly 100 years in business, Fishels Furniture, known best for patio furniture, closed its doors in 2016 as owner Larry Talbott sought a new chapter in life having spent 40 years owning/running the business. Photo: Lynch Sales Co.


The old Fishels Furniture building on Martin Luther King Blvd. at Burnside bridge has yielded Douglas fir timbers fit to go back into use as they are or to be re-sawn into crisp board stock with unlimited uses. In more good news: some of the wood reclaimed from the building is going back into the new construction that’s happening there.

Reclaimed Douglas fir timbers from the Mersman Table Factory found new life in a Portland, OR home. Photo by Loren Nelson.


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Red “Shadow” Pine Salvaged From Historic Tile Manufactory

     AETCO plant demo_web     

In 1892, the American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCO) built an expansive tile manufactory on the banks of the Muskingum River in Zanesville, Ohio. Red Pine was a significant component in its construction, as it was for many buildings during the Industrial Revolution. The structure stood for 124 years until it had outlived its usefulness and was demolished in 2015. Pioneer Millworks was able to acquire a load of Red Pine from the industrial salvage, totaling around 13,000 board feet.

When demolition of the Zanesville plant began, the original ‘American Encaustic Tile’ facades were unearthed, a reminder of one of the world’s pioneers in the tile industry. Originally founded in New York City in 1875, AETCO quickly grew and expanded operations to Zanesville. A massive producer of floor tiles, wall tiles, and accent tiles of all sizes, patterns, and colors, the Zanesville operation was considered the largest and most distinguished tile manufactory in the world at the turn of the 20th century, employing at least 1,000 people and cranking out unique ceramic tiles for homes and businesses across the nation.

AETCO bldg revealed_web

The unique features of this reclaimed Red Pine are the original paint and wear marks as well as a striped appearance created from the ceiling joists running across the underside of the floor, which left a  “shadow” when removed after a century in place. This Red Shadow Pine is celebrated for its unique character and history.

Red Pine boards_AETC_webO     Shadow Pine_web     Red_pine_matte-poly-finish_web

It is always a privilege to rescue antique wood from rot or landfills. Our reclaimed Red Shadow Pine from the AETCO plant has tones of red and yellow, with streaks of resin, numerous knots and holes, as well as minor surface cracks. The joist shadows on each plank create a striking pattern and a reminder of the wood’s former life. Some of the timbers were milled into paneling in our Farmington, New York shop for a major retailer’s project. The white paint was removed and the boards were finished with a matte Polyurethane.

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 waPinus_resinosa_Itasca_webs nearly depleted during the logging heyday of the 1890’s.
  • Red Pine will normally reach a mature height of 75-100 feet.
  • 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, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted millions of Red Pine plantations.
  • 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.



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.


Reclaimed Douglas Fir A Part of Chicago History

WoodStackWe 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.

finkl steel mill 2Over 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 3A. 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.

Let us know if you’re interested in the 5 x 11, free of heart, ‘sandblasted’ timbers.