PORTLAND, Ore. -- At Salvage Works in North Portland, the reclaimed wood tells a story as sure as any history book. Pointing at a stack of heavy beams, owner Preston Browning explains, "This was a barn built in 1850, it's one of the earliest barns in Oregon."
The timber is worn from 170 years of providing cover, scarred from the hands and the axes that shaped it. "This is the best part of the story," says Browning,
"It was constructed by Russian barn builders who also moved up into Oregon from California with the pioneers, building their barns for them."
This barn is about to begin a second life, which is true of all the wood at Salvage Works. Some is cut from downed tree, or brought in after an historic building is carefully deconstructed.
Browning started salvage works seven years ago on a shoestring. "I had a little cushion," he says, "Not a lot."
But as the demand for reclaimed lumber grows, doubling just last year, so does the business. It's gone from one to thirteen employees, and expanded to a lumberyard, retail business and one of a kind furniture.
Showing off a sturdy custom dining table Browning points out, "You can see in some of the grain of this material that it was old growth, it's something that you cannot buy anymore."
Browning is part artist, part builder, so It's not surprising that he is drawn to the inner beauty of the reclaimed lumber. And lucky for him, so are many others, just as eager to search for the stories hidden in every grain and to embrace the promise of reinvention.