When involved in the art of reclamation, there may be no cooler spot to salvage old timber than a formerly secret World War II Boeing Plant in Seattle. There’s history in the plant and that means there’s history in the wood. 

The Duluth Timber Company, which specializes in salvaging old lumber and then reusing it on new projects, jumped at the opportunity to chop into Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle, which produced nearly 7,000 B-17 Flying Fortresses, including during World War II.

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After securing the bid, work started in January on tearing out the old-growth Douglas fir beams that come in lengths up to 25 feet. The former 1.7 million-square-foot shop’s floor joists provide the longest pieces of lumber for Duluth’s crews. But most timber pieces come in the 8-inch by 20-inch variety.

The Boeing plant, while producing as many as 362 planes a month in three shifts working around the clock served as one of the first modern assembly lines. But secrecy was critical during World War II because of the threat of attack. To camouflage the plant, Boeing hired a Hollywood art director to help blend the facility into the surrounding neighborhood. Cased as a fake housing development, the faux-neighborhood made of plywood, chicken wire and netting covered nearly all 26 acres of the plant’s roof.

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The fake neighborhood, courtesy of Boeing

Max Taubert, owner of Duluth Timber Company, says he estimates there was over four million board-feet of wood in the plant, but he expects to get out only a fraction of that, about 250,000 board feet, when work wraps up this year.

And getting to some of the wood proves challenging. “It’s more dangerous and time-consuming to access the high timbers,” Taubert says. “Deconstruction costs more than demolition.”

Duluth, named for its hometown in Minnesota, also operates a timber yard and mill in Edison, Wash. This spring the company opened a “micro-yard” on the shipping canal in Seattle to handle Boeing Plant 2 wood, along with other reclaimed wood from throughout the U.S. Now, we get to wait and see what new projects this wood will play a featured role in, helping keep the Boeing Plant 2 story alive.