Wood Choices Become an Issue…

My wife and I live in one of Canada’s richest farm lands. In fact, the area we want to move to is basically a winery area as well as being the tomato capitol of the world. The area also produces a large amount of corn, soy beans and just about everything else.

But the farm land came at a cost. Almost all the treed areas (the area used to be a MASS FOREST!) are literally gone to make room for flat fertile farm land. The area still has several native species of trees, but they are constantly disappeared in quantities and even if they are still around, are unusable as a building material.

Some of the native tree species of Southern Ontario are:

  • Red Oak.
  • Maple.
  • Poplar.
  • Tulip Poplar (one of only a few places in Canada that is grows in fact).
  • Ash (but most Ash Trees are dead or dying due to the Ash Borer Beetle).
  • Eastern Red Cedar and Eastern White Cedar (more white than red).
  • Hemlock
  • Willow
  • Sycamore
  • A more complete list is here: http://ontariotrees.com/main/alien_native.php?type=N

Frank Lloyd Wright of course said to use a material that is common to the area or native. Local materials. The reason being the home should not disturb the surrounding area’s appearance or more accurately, it should enhance the landscape. In other words, how the heck is a house made of bamboo and mahogany going to blend into a prairie environment?

Now saying that, FLW usually used Cypress as a the primary wood in most Usonian houses. Even though it is a native tree to Southern United States, he used it everywhere… If he didn’t use Cypress, it was usually Redwood (California).

Cypress has a beautiful finish to it. It is sort of reddish, almost a red oak look to it at a fraction of the price (at least back in Wright’s time).

After a bit of research I learned that a lot of the old growth Cypress was cut down really fast in the early 20th century for use in the construction industry.

Which brings me to my point…my wife and I both LOVE the look of the wood but it has become VERY rare and next to impossible to get in our area. In fact, the local woodshop down the street from us had a few pieces of it sitting on a shelf for years and when we asked if he could order more in, he told his supplier to not laugh when he priced it out.

Another mill out in the county that is a real wood milling place was trying to obtain it for us but was unable to.

One thought on “Wood Choices Become an Issue…

  1. Greetings David,

    Perhaps you are worrying too much over wood selection… Philippine Mahogany, as you know, wasn’t “native” to the New World. Any light-colored, straight grained wood that was the least expensive at the time, is what Mr. Wright would have selected.

    Honestly, I would advise against the ammonia treated finish. That was not normal in Usonian homes. I have seen first-rate Usonains with dark-stained Phillipine Mahogany torn down after the original client. Just my opinion, but it makes the space look heavier instead of lighter and more open.

    Worry more about your land selection with SE exposure and views that you won’t grow tired of.

    Best wishes with your endeavors!


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