Wood with History
Head northwest on US-287 out of Wichita Falls and in about 45 minutes, you’ll hit Vernon, Texas. It’s a community of just under 12,000 sitting a good rock toss from the Red River. Lying parallel to the storied Chisholm Trail 90 miles away, about 7 million head of cattle passed through Vernon on the Great Western Trail before the big drives petered out in the 1890s. Rusted pump jacks in the fields speak to the oil boom days, and the old Cotton Co-Op Warehouse has withstood 113 winters and summers. Now, workers are painstakingly dismantling the century-old building board-by-board to salvage its, beautifully weathered all-grown lumber.
The impressively straight and solid boards coming up out of the 19th century flooring are a precious commodity in the modern world. The only way to find wood of this age and quality is to salvage it from vintage buildings. Builders and designers are clamoring for the material, craving not just the one-of-a-kind patina, but the stability of wood that is almost impervious to crowning or warming. Old-growth lumber doesn’t change. It’s aged beyond such foolishness.
Reusing the wood also makes for a sound environmental practice. No greenhouse emissions are created by manufacturing wood long ago shaped into boards, and less energy is required to erect wood buildings. The long-leaf pine and Douglas fir coming out of the warehouse will be used for molding, floors, furniture, and rustic finishing work. There’s enough to go into multiple projects, and the boards are in such high demand, there won’t be any waste.
But the work of reclamation doesn’t stop there. Other materials taken out of the building will also be repurposed, from the old bricks to tin and metal pipe. The lumber might represent the highest value, but the construction industry is embracing the concept of reuse in a big way, cutting what goes into landfills and preserving pieces of an historical structure destined to find a second life.