“American Pickers” Nashville Store History and Other Historic Finds
Ever wondered what you find in the infamous “American Pickers” store? This blogger got the opportunity to visit the Nashville store and discover some of the historic pieces on display. My adventure also included learning the intersting history of the automobile factory that houses the store. Along the way, I spotted lots of, yep you guessed it, historic, original pine beams and flooring!
Antique treasures of historic Nashville
The first thing that caught my eye was this wood spoke car wheel! After some research, I discovered that wood spokes were used on the first Model T cars. They were used until 1926 when steel wheels became the latest invention. They bare or painted for the luxury option. The wood often chosen for this application was hickory.
Around the corner, I stumbled across this vintage dress from Country Music sweetheart, Loretta Lynn. The award winning singer has had a 60 year long career. She paved the way for women in the country music industry. Mrs. Lynn was the first woman to receive the CMA’s “Entertainer of the Year” and the first to receive a certified gold album. Loretta still remains the most awarded woman in country music. She also holds another title in Albany Woodwork’s history. She was one of the first customers to purchase adirondack chairs from a young Richard Woods in the early days of Albany Woodworks. These chairs sat on her ranch home porch outside of Nashville for years.
And then nestled among the historic treasures was the antique woodworking. It was breathtaking in its own way. Each beam and piece of wood has resided in the building since 1881, when it was constructed to house a boiler company and then in 1904, the famous Marathon Automobile Factory. The Marathon Auto Company grew rapidly for the next few years, gaining investment and prosperity. Unfortunately, it fell as fast as it grew. By 1914, it was crumbling and closed soon after. There are only nine Marathon cars remaining today and are incredibly collectible. Marathon was the only automobile company to build cars within Nashville’s city limits.
The 130,000 sq ft building sat in disrepair and empty until the 1980’s when it was purchased. The new owner renovated it and turned it into the Marathon village, a series of shop spaces, event spaces, and artist lofts. The renovations kept as many original features as possible. When the owner first went into the buildings, he pried open doors that had been nailed shut for nearly fifty years. Behind the doors, he found a time capsule of the early 1900’s with highly sought after car parts, machinery and other historic artifacts sitting there waiting to be found. This just proves that you never know what you will find behind the doors of the historic buildings of Nashville, Tennessee.
Reclaimed lumber picking
At Albany Woodworks, we can relate to the care and expertise the picking process requires. In a way, the reclaiming process of lumber is just like picking. Our expert picker and CEO, Richard Woods, has to comb the United States for buildings being torn down. It has to be just the right kind of building, filled with historic lumber cut from the original forests of the United States. We use our network of contacts in the demolition business to learn of upcoming buildings that will be dismantled. Once we catch wind of a promising building, Richard packs up his tools including his microscope and hits the road.
More often than not, these buildings are in areas that were once bustling areas and usually there is no electricity. This adds to the challenge of inspecting the building since you are in the dark, using flashlights and headlamps to try to identify if the wood is salvageable. As Richard inspects the building, he is looking to visually identify the type of wood present if possible. Most of the large warehouses, mills, etc that we use as sources for wood were built with whatever wood was available. This means several different types could have and typically were used to build. On top of that the wood is usually covered in dirt, paint or just years of patina. It is important that we purchase the correct wood in order to have raw lumber for our products.
Looking for oak, cypress and pine primarily, Richard takes samples of the most promising lumber. He carefully pulls small specimens and places them under the microscope. Here is where it gets really interesting. This is a very important step in identifying wood because several species look very similar. It takes experience and a trained eye to distinguish between them. The microscope adds another level to ensure we are “picking” the type of wood we need. It allows the viewer to identify the wood species on a cellular level.
Sounds almost scientific… well it is! Richard had to develop the skill to be able to identify the wood species. How did he learn these skills? In the early days of the business, he contacted the LSU School of Agriculture in Baton Rouge, LA. A professor there was very excited at the real world application Richard was looking for and agreed to teach him the ins and outs in an afternoon. Richard walked away with the basic knowledge of how to use the microscope, take a good sample, and what to look for to identify the species. The rest of it came with time and experience. Thirty plus years later, he is now an expert.
Once Richard decides the building has the type of wood needed at the sawmill, he leaves it to the demolishers. They tear down the building, keep the wood agreed upon, and load it up in a truck to be shipped to the Albany Woodworks sawmill in Louisiana. When it arrives on site, it is unloaded and sorted based on size and wood type. It stays in the warehouse until an order is placed. From there, it is brought to the sawmill where it is cut down to flooring. The neat thing is one beam may hold several different collections. The original surface of the beam goes into our Orleans Collection, rustic heart pine flooring. The middle goes into our Chateau and/or Silvan Collections depending on the number of knots and the grain pattern. The pristine heart wood goes into our top of the line Prestige Collection, that has virtually no knots and beautiful long grain pattern. The product is then shipped to projects around the United States to complete homes, businesses and any other type of project our customers come to us with.