From factory building to furniture: how a Toronto company is salvaging old-growth wood from Napanee

Click to play video 'Old growth wood salvaged from the Gibbard Factory buildings to return in the form of new furniture' Old growth wood salvaged from the Gibbard Factory buildings to return in the form of new furniture
Built in 1835 and once Canada's oldest furniture factory, some buildings have been torn down to make way for the Gibbard District condo complex. Many of the old-growth timbers are hundreds to a thousand years old.

As the saying goes, “What’s old is new again”.

And that is exactly what is happening to old-growth timbers from a factory in Napanee, Ont., once Canada’s oldest furniture maker.

The hope is the old-growth wood from the Gibbard Furniture Factory will return to the community.

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“These are Douglas fir posts and beams,” says Niko Kougias, owner of Deadstok Reclaimed, pointing to several 12-foot-long timbers a foot wide. “That would have come from the West Coast, probably 100 years ago, once the railroad started happening in the 1890s.”

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Deadstok Reclaimed is a Toronto-based company that salvages old-growth wood.

“The excitement about old-growth wood is that it doesn’t really exist anymore in the limber market,” says Kougias, “so the only way to procure the materials is to pull them out these (Gibbard Furniture Factory) old buildings.

“It is very exciting because you get to see what people were doing with craftsmanship 150-years ago.”

READ MORE: Edmonton company makes furniture out of Cloverdale Footbridge, gives people ‘a piece of history’

Gibbard District
Gibbard District. Gibbard District

Built in 1835 and once the oldest furniture maker in Canada, the Gibbard Factory operated for 173 years before closing in 2009.

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Some of the Gibbard buildings are being demolished to make way for a new condominium development, and Kougias, also a furniture maker, saw an opportunity and struck a deal with the developer to buy the wood in the old factory.

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“We’re taking wood from an old furniture factory and turning it into furniture again,” says Kougias.

Kougias is also a reacquiring character on Salvage Kings on the History Channel.

History Channel
History Channel. History Channel

Part of Kougias’s mindset is to return the wood to the communities he salvaged it from.

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Products produced from the old wood could go back into the new condo units in Napanee, purchased by owners, in the form of furniture, countertops and even flooring.

“We’ve had overwhelming support, so it’s something we want to continue with development companies and communities to make sure that they can bring wood back to these developments, that were originally here,” says Kougias. “It’s a heritage thing.

“I think it is extremely important and historical.”

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According to Kougias, some of the timbers in the historic buildings are more than a thousand years old.

Very dense wood — very rare to find today.

“The old-growth trees have very tight rings,” says Kougias. “It’s evidence of the tree struggling to grow over a period of time. Taking in water, light and air.”

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Kougias says thousands of dollars worth of rare old-growth wood has been rescued from the Gibbard Furniture Factory.

Doornekamp Construction Ltd.
Doornekamp Construction Ltd. Doornekamp Construction Ltd.

The Gibbard District condominium project is expected to be completed in 2022.