Crews find prized lumber in gutted Wisconsin warehouses

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RACINE, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin material design company is reclaiming 19th century timber from gutted warehouses in Racine that a company official says it like finding "a needle in a haystack."

Urban Evolutions co-owner Jeff Janson says he's found the wooden equivalent of a hidden stash of gold in some dismantled JI Cast steam engine and thresher machine buildings, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Much of the wood is old-growth, longleaf pine from slow-growing forests that once covered an estimated 92 million acres of the South, from roughly East Texas to southern Virginia.

Janson said the timber is far more than old, junk timber.

"You can't buy it. The only place to find it is in a reclamation project," Janson said. "We think it's really high quality, and I think our customers were really shocked to find it here."

The reclaimed timber at the site, also known as "heart pine," includes massive 10-inch by 10-inch structural beams weighing 1,000 pounds and floor joists measuring 2 inches by 11 inches and weighing 200 pounds.

Janson hopes to harvest 2 million board feet of the timber from the site.

"This is like a needle in a haystack, this building," Janson said while working at the site on recent cold, gray December morning. "The longleaf pine is really sought after. It's as heavy as oak."

Urban Evolutions plans to recover the timber by working with crews from Recyclean, a Kenosha-based reclamation company.

Janson said he is hoping the lumber being pulled from the warehouses will end up being used in projects across the U.S. and the world.