By Sarah Morrison, Chair Buildings and Grounds
Many visitors to the new building have asked about the antique wood used throughout. There is a fascinating story behind all the wood and we began highlighting its history in our last issue of Down to Earth. Part I, which ran in our summer newsletter, featured the antique posts and beams which came from Milk Can Corners Dairy Farm, located in Susquehanna, Pa. Some of our posts and beams date back to the original part of the barn which was built in 1791! If you missed Part I of the antique wood story, you may pick up a copy of the complete story from the office on your next visit to the farm.
Part II Wainscoting and Flooring from Wood Grain Silo
The wood used in the wainscoting and flooring throughout the Indoor Leaning Center came from an old wooden grain silo from a farm in Susquehanna County, Pa. The silo cap had come off and the grains stored inside were soaked by the rains and weather over the years. This soaking of the grains stained the interior side of the boards and is one of the reasons our flooring has such beautiful and varied color.
Light colored boards tend to have been the exterior side of the wood which was exposed to sun and weather and darker boards tend to have been the interior side of the wood which was stained by the soaked grain. The variation of the wood tones lends interest and warmth to the feel of the building.
Our wood comes from a silo manufactured by the Unadilla Silo Company which began as a lumber company in 1892, and produced its first wood silo in 1906. The date our silo was built is unknown, however, it was approximately 15’ in diameter, some 35-40’ high and was leaning like the Tower of Pisa! The staves were mostly pine (but also some fir), were some 2” thick and came in lengths of 5’, 7’, and 12’. The 5’ staves formed the bottom level, then a layer of 7’ staves would be placed on top of them, then a level of 12’ staves followed by one of 5’ and so forth. The staves were held in place with adjustable hoops and door openings 20” wide were stacked on top of each other at the front of the silo to provide continuous and unobstructed unloading. The fasteners at the doors formed a convenient ladder and allowed door frames to be adjusted to provide continued air-tight joints.
Wood silos were popular, because they were easy to transport which led to lower transportation costs- farmers could use their own trucks and eliminate delivery charges. They were designed to be built by the farmers and came in pre-cut packages ready to be assembled (under contract from the company, a silo could be built in 1-2 days). The wooden silos did not require massive footings, so foundation costs were minimal and because they could be assembled and disassembled easily, they retained their value and could be moved to a new location, if necessary. The silos were versatile and could be adapted for special usage. The materials could also be used for other purposes, such as in our case! Wood silos were especially practical because they were built from a renewable natural resource and one which required less energy in manufacturing than other materials. Although most silos today are metal, many farmers swear that grain from a wood silo tasted better!
Preparation of the Wood
Benedict Antique Lumber and Stone of New Milford, Pa. had to prepare each silo stave to be used as either flooring or wainscoting. Some of the work was done in Pennsylvania, but much of it was done on location in West Redding- Benedict Lumber set up a portable saw mill right in front of the building! Each 2” stave was first sliced in half with a band saw and then skillfully run through a skip planer to remove just enough of the roughness of the weathered wood to still allow it to retain its beautiful patina. The wainscoting and flooring are from the same wood silo, yet they look remarkably different. The floor boards were planed to a greater degree than the wainscoting boards to make walking and sitting on them more comfortable!