heartwood pine

A little piece of Honor’s Corner

As we come down the home stretch we are continually amazed by the multitude of professionals who have come and gone over the past 11 months, contributing their talents and great works to our project.  We have met some interesting folks and have made some new friends along the way!  I was inspired to present each of the key contributors with a token of thanks and being the crafty person that I am I was determined to make them something representative of the house.  All summer I tossed around ideas but kept coming back to the pile of wall studs left from the demolition.  John had his eye on most of it for reuse in the house but he let me have a few pieces and just before the winter holidays he cut it into smaller sections for me.   I remembered that our son had handcrafted some wooden pieces when he was enrolled in a technology course at Pocahontas Middle School in Henrico County.  Some were made as fund raisers and some as personal items including a beautiful writing pen.  Deciding that we should give our principle contributors a pen and knowing that I could not make a pen myself,  I reached out to the technology teacher to see if he and his kids would be up to the challenge.  Wouldn’t you know it!  PMS is involved in a year long fund raising project for Relay for Life.  They are hosting the event on their track in June and had set some pretty lofty goals for themselves. Mr Long designed a win-win collaboration through which I would make a donation to Relay for Life for each pen completed by either himself or one of the students.  In the end, I have 50 handmade pens crafted from century old wall studs and Relay for Life has a nice donation.  I love it!

All the interior walls were taken down to open up the floor plan.  Nails were removed and the wood was stacked for future use.  I was able to sneak a warped piece for the pens.


Coincidentally, Mr Long was wearing his purple Hawks Relay for Life T-shirt the day I picked up the pens!


Our collection of pens made of Heartwood Pine taken from the walls of Honor’s Corner.


Distribution of the pens began on the night we hosted Green Drinks and had many of the principles in attendance.  Every now and then another stops by the house I can get one to them.  Pretty soon we will have another gathering for the demolition crew that spent the hot summer months deconstructing Honor’s Corner and I can give them each a pen made from remnants of the wood they removed, reshaped and reused in our house.  Certainly a small token of our appreciation to them and many others for their hard work.  I treasure my pen and have been using it to write the many checks necessary to get us through these final weeks.  That’s right!  Final weeks.


Tidewater Pine

Demolition is almost complete! Right now we are waiting on timbers for the support structures and sub flooring sheets.

In a previous post, I mentioned that we are not able to use the original floors in the house. The loss of the worn floors in Honor’s Corner is a bitter-sweet for us. The thought of living with the same floors as the first family in the home, and its subsequent residents, is comforting in an odd way. However, I must admit that it’s equally exciting to select new floors and make our own history!

If you look closely you can see the disparity in the height of the wood that was under the fireplace hearth compared to the wood that was exposed in the living room. The floors have obviously been sanded many times in the last 103 years!

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In various areas throughout the house the floors are so thin that the tongues and grooves are worn completely and chipped away.

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The current flooring planks are nailed directly to the floor joists, which was customary for the time that the home was built. Today, sub floors are installed on the joists, followed by the planks. It is likely that the planks will splinter and fall apart as they are pulled up but any wood that is reusable will be salvaged.

A few years ago Patrick and I visited the New Kent Winery. If you have never been there, just seeing the building is worth the trip, not to mention tasting the delicious wines that they produce and the beautiful setting! The moment we walked into the main building we knew that we wanted our dream home to resemble the winery. We spoke with the manager about the building and the wood used to construct the show place. There are huge rafters of reclaimed wood and gorgeous details in the trim work, flooring and doors. We heard the stories of the wood and the various pieces in the winery. We also learned the name of the company that supplied and installed the wood features. We were thrilled to hear that it was a Richmond based, family owned business. We tucked away the name, fantasizing that one day we would call on them to help us create our own historical, beautiful place.

Last week I made a visit to that Richmond-based company, E.T. Moore. Wow! Who would have known that Richmond is home to the largest and oldest wood reclaiming business in the country? I took my older daughter along with me and together we were escorted around the property, in and out of buildings and through tunnels in a golf cart. We caught a glimpse of the operation from the first cleaning of a beam or pylon to the beautifully finished flooring in the showroom. We learned the history of the family and business. It was so fascinating to me that I dragged John back the following day to see the operation and to take a look at one wood in particular that I had fallen in love with the previous day. There is just enough of this particular wood for our project and I didn’t want to risk someone else snagging it out from under us.

The first step in the process is to remove all nails and metal shards from the wood. Metal detectors and hand tools are used.

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Wood is then stacked to dry and wait for a purpose.

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These beams were removed from a site in Providence Rhode Island and are believed to be the largest square diameter of any heart pine beams in the world! They are 19″ square and each piece weighs about 1500 pounds.

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This place is fascinating! The building was originally a furniture factory dating back to around 1869. Initially, Moore was approached about salvaging the wood from the building. Instead he moved his entire river front operation, including hugh saws, tools, vehicles and massive amounts of lumber, to higher ground in this building in only 3 days to escape the Election Day Flood of 1985.

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E.T. Moore is in the business of preserving heartwood pine that was used in barns, factories and mills until the mid 1900’s when steel became the more common building material. Our escort was one of the Moore’s sons. He is carrying on the family tradition and expertise with passion and purpose. He was able to tell us the origin and age of every neatly stacked pile of wood. Many of the pieces he had personally removed from demolition sites along the East Coast. They specialize in longleaf heart pine, which is extremely scarce now.

Wiki tidbit: Before the 1700s, in the United States, longleaf pine forests, covered approximately 30-60 million acres along the coastal plain from Virginia’s southern tip to eastern Texas. These pine trees, 80 to 120 feet tall, require 100 to 150 years to become full size and can live up to 500 years. An inch of heart pine requires 30 years growth. Due to deforestation and over-harvesting since colonial days, only about 3% of the original Longleaf Pine forest remains. Currently heart pine for building and woodworking is procured by reclaiming old lumber and recovering logs, felled pre-1900, from rivers.

If you look at 100 different stacks of longleaf southern heartwood pine you will see 100 uniquely beautiful specimens. If the timbers were submerged in water they will look completely different from timbers that served as rafters in a mill or warehouse. Some pieces have nail or worm holes that give the wood another dimension. The wood can be cut with different types of saws to create a particular pattern. There are many options. Once you select a wood then you select the finish which includes the stain color, sheen and application process. Such decisions! We knew that we wanted a variety of plank widths, limited nail and worm holes, and rich colors. The raw wood looks nothing like the finished wood so it’s extremely helpful to view the samples in the warehouse of the finished product. I was immediately drawn to one wood in particular and when we heard its history we knew that it was meant for our home.

In the early 1900s the US Navy built a large wharf in Southeast Washington, DC along the Anacostia River. By 1999 the long pier had begin to deteriorate and the government decided to remove it. E.T. Moore was one of the teams used to reclaim the wood from the pier. The mineral deposits left by the river have given the wood rich tones of bronze, green, and brown. We love the history and the past service to the country that the “Tidewater Pine” will bring into our home. We have a connection to the water. We spend every weekend that we can on the Chesapeake Bay and our son serves in the US Navy. It’s perfect! We are even thinking of having a large compass rose inlaid in the foyer floor.

The only Tidewater Pine known to remain un-purposed in the industry.

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Ashley Moore (I love that southern name) and John examine the planks.

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Raw Tidewater Pine Planks

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In the early autumn, our boards will be retrieved from the basement of E.T Moore, routed with tongues and grooves and prepared for the move. It will sit for about 2 weeks in the house to acclimate to it’s new temperature and humidity before it is installed and finished in place. One more major decision made!

The next decisions are about roof color, window style and color and exterior paint choices.