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Published: Tuesday, 6/5/2007

From Apple Farm to "Green" Flooring: Recycled Wood is in Demand

(ARA) - Reclaimed wood floors are a popular option for homeowners and for public buildings as well. The floors give a sense of history to any building. A good example of this is the flooring reclaimed from the Guerrant Family Plantation and Algoma Apple Packing Farm.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the 3,000-acre plantation and farm was the site of 100 buildings. The apples grown on this land near Boones Mill, Va., were harvested and shipped to England and played a role in the nourishment of soldiers from the Civil War to the Second World War. Today only a few buildings made from the plantation trees almost three centuries ago remain, but the wood from these structures is still playing vital roles in today's construction. It's the story of the Many Lives of An Apple Farm Tree and the Green alternatives it provides for your home.

Their first lifetime was spent as majestic trees providing shelter and shade for forest animals as an integral part in the eco-system. They grew to great proportions and were likely more than 200 to 300 years old before being harvested.

Their second lifetime was spent as components of the apple farm's many buildings: the large packing barn where slaves prepared apples for shipment to England was built of chestnut; the farmhand's quarters were constructed of heart pine; and the main building was oak.

In 2002 when the apple farm structures were dismantled, the wood was reincarnated again to live out a third lifetime as wide plank floors. Some of the wood found new life in the Jeffersonian-style Southern National Bank in Sugarland, Texas, which was being converted into a museum. The customer requested antique oak flooring with a historical connection.

"At Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring, we strive to maintain the line of custody when crafting our floors so that our customers can have a sense that they are treading on a piece of history," says Don Carlisle, the second-generation owner of the most-requested supplier of reclaimed wood products in North America. He believes the future of his business is predicated on staying true to their "old fashioned," handcrafted techniques. He explains, "Our forefathers made building floors a folk art, and today at Carlisle, we continue this work using the same traditional methods with a modern twist to preserve history."

Robert E. Lee's personal note to the Guerrant family thanking them for apples donated to Confederate troops made the apple farm's oak a perfect choice for the museum project. Today you can find a portion of an Algoma Apple crate framed and hanging in the museum. Still more wood from the apple farm, this time reclaimed eastern heart pine, went to Elizabeth and Joe Currier of Crested Butte, Colo., whose reclaimed floors helped transform 19th-century coal sheds into a 21st-century mountain retreat.

Carlisle's process of recycling antique wood starts with the close relationships they've fostered with their suppliers to identify structures slated for destruction. Once the old timber structures are inspected and chosen as being suitable, the barn is carefully dismantled, transported to a lumberyard, and expertly crafted into planks by a professional sawyer. The sawyer first cuts the face of the wood to determine the look of the floor. After that the wood is cut into wide planks, which are then kiln-dried, sized, and carefully graded. Finally, milling artists hand-select and finish-mills the wide planks to exacting specifications in preparation for installation. This green process creates a look and feel that harkens back to days gone by.

"We love our wide plank antique floors so much and take heart in knowing that the recycling process of these floors have been controlled from original barn to finished floor," exclaims Mary Daleo a Carlisle customer. "After several months of enjoying our new purchase, we still walk through our home and admire the unique characteristics of each plank."

Just like antiques in the furniture world, antique wood is in limited supply. As early American structures dwindle in population, so does the wood. And in the case of chestnut, the type of wood reclaimed from one building on the apple farm, the wood is all but gone in America today due to a blight from an Asian fungus dating back to 1904. Today most chestnut trees only survive a few years in the forest before they die, making the preservation and reuse of this old timber of vital importance.

The next time you think about a new floor for your home, consider the green alternative of recycled wood. It will preserve the history of the tree that once grew in the forest, the history of the original construction, and the history of your own home and family. Courtesy of ARA Content



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