Sunken Treasure—Gold in the Rivers

Gold in the form of rich hues and grain of aged Heart Pine and Heart Cypress has been submerged for hundreds of years in the Suwannee and other Florida Rivers. This year these highly treasured trees will surface, thanks to ecologically aware people like George Goodwin, who petitioned and won the privilege to retrieve them without disturbing the surrounding Eco-systems.

When the trees were initially hewn, it was the oldest and most dense trees that rolled off the logging rafts and slipped into the darkness of the Suwannee. Most of the trees recovered by Goodwin and Company are hundreds and sometimes thousands of years old. The wood colors range from golden honey to a rich burgundy red. The well-defined grains are works of art ranging from select arches to vertical pin stripes to curly or burl grain. The wood is carefully sawn, slowly air-dried, then kiln-dried and meticulously milled to the specifications of the particular project and the customer’s needs. Goodwin follows the 1904 grading rules for Heart Pine and Heart Cypress and sets the standards for antique woods today.

Whether for restoration or for the beauty of the wood being used in modern design, Goodwin’s recovered Heart Pine has starred in PBS’s This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop. It has played a role in HGTV’s Dream Builders and has been a notable in such magazines as Women’s Day, U.S. News and World Report and Fine Homebuilding. Most recently, Goodwin was featured in Southern Living, December, 1999.

1,700 Year Old Cypress Logs Found in the River—New Yankee Workshop films in Micanopy, FL

Goodwin Heart Pine Company, specialists in recovering original growth logs from Southern rivers has pulled a mammoth size cypress tree from a private creek in west Florida. The tree, approximately 1,700 years old and over 100 feet tall when it was cut down by ax a hundred years ago, is 53” in diameter and three times larger than most cypress logs Goodwin recovers. Goodwin pulled a 34-foot section from the river, likely the bottom portion of the tree.

Because the tree was submerged in cool water, the milled lumber will be in pristine condition. The sections will provide enough wood to side or panel an entire house and most likely will be used for historic restoration and preservation projects.

Cypress trees are among the most slowly growing and have been clear-cut, like its sister tree the redwood, to near extinction. IT is one of few remaining prehistoric species. A favorite wood of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, cypress was a difficult wood to cut by hand due to is size and swampy growing conditions. A century ago loggers would chop a ring around the tree or “girdle” the tree in winter or early spring so that moisture would be pulled out as the tree put on leaves. Months later in the wet season when it was easier to get a boat into the swamps, the lumber jacks would return to harvest the tree. This particular tree probably was still too heavy and sank even after being girdled.

“In the 22 years I have been recovering and milling antique logs, this tree is certainly among the largest,” said George Goodwin, owner and operator of Goodwin Heart Pine. “It is extremely rare to find a log of this size either recovered from a river or even growing near a river. Unfortunately, Southern original growth forests of heart pine and cypress were clear-but to extinction a hundred years ago and today even young cypress trees are being cut without the benefit of replanting.”

Since Goodwin began its mill in 1979, it has been the original source of true pre-settlement quality Heart Pine and Heart Cypress. The company rescues logs by hand from southern river bottoms where they have lain for more than a century beneath the cool murky waters. Like the treasured timber, a visit to the mill in rural north Florida is a step back in time. George Goodwin tracked down the most knowledgeable old-timers to teach him the lost art of rendering the quality of timber from these old logs that was last available to your great-grandparents. Goodwin takes pride in being different from other lumber mills. The company’s passion for the wood, its craft and its customers demands it!

Rare Woods Capturing the Attention of America’s Craftspeople and Homeowners

As hardwood interiors enjoy a newfound surge in popularity—in everything from home remodeling to new commercial applications—building professionals and homeowners find themselves combing through catalogs and magazines in search of “the perfect wood.”

For some, the decision is based on color. Others look at grain or for something unusual. Then it is always important to think about durability and strength.

One choice that is earning a second look, and often a first purchase, is a little understood wood that was so in demand during the 1800s and early 1900s that entire forests were clear-cut to virtual extinction. Southern Heart Pine is expected to take an even greater leap in popularity this January, when the well-regarded PBS television show, The New Yankee Workshop, features the wood sand heart pine specialist George Goodwin.

Host Norm Abram, intrigued with the unique method George uses to recover antique woods, took a camera crew on location to film Goodwin and his staff pull heart pine and cypress logs in a Southern Georgia river. The logs were lost from up to 200 years ago when loggers used the waterways to transport their cut timber down-river to the mills.

Goodwin Heart Pine Company, a small specialty lumber company owned by Goodwin in Micanopy, Florida, is one of a handful of companies in the United States that offer this rare wood and the only one to retrieve lost logs from riverbeds.

“Unfortunately, because of the changing ecological balance, the tree has nearly passed into extinction. It is only available in limited quantities either by salvaging timbers form old buildings, cutting down the few trees left, or like we do it … by putting on a wet suit and recovering the lost logs from the bottom of Southern rivers,” said Goodwin.

More than five million viewers will see the process in action Saturday, January 25, when The New Yankee Workshop airs on about 300 Public Broadcasting Stations nationally.

The show opens with the segment about the river recovery excursion and then will go on to show Abram giving step-by-step instructions in making a lidded bench from the wood of a recovered cypress log. The show is aimed at the amateur craftsperson and features a complete woodworking project from scratch.

“Sure it is hard work to recover this wood, but it is surely worth it. These logs, many of them 400 and 500 years old are preserved by the cool water and lack of oxygen so the heavy, dense heart remains in perfect condition, unspoiled by saws and nails.

“Because it is so rare and valuable, I stay involved at every stage. I do not pull every log out, but I do personally saw, dry, and inspect every board we mill. We cannot afford to make a mistake with this wood … it’s too hard to come by,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin predicts the interest in Heart Pine and other rare woods will increase as more craftspeople and homeowners gain more information about the woods. To help the process along, the company has just released a free video that documents the extinction of the Southern heart pine. For more information call Goodwin Heart Pine Company at 1-800-336-3118.