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Long Lost Long Leaf Yellow Pine

November 28, 2017

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For some reason I cannot explain, I have a fascination with “what came before” over and above any innate desire to contemplate the future and “what is possible”.  Some might say that is completely backwards for an architect.  But I know I am not the only one that has a passion for historic buildings and in seeing us keep the best of our architecture—so maybe some decent percentage of readers of this blog will understand.   While I contemplate the urban environment around me as I type this, I am thinking of walking through forests of long leaf yellow pine.


As recently as the middle of 19th century, most of this country was still fairly wild and untamed -- the enormous numbers of immigrants flooding into the United States would push the tide of settlers moving westward—and they would build.  At their disposal were seemingly endless resources—and one resource in particular, the long leaf pine (Pinus Palustris Mill.), was extraordinary.  Tall, straight, strong, rot-resistant, giant trees growing for centuries was a wood species unmatched by any other in the world for building purposes—and the pine forests that covered the southeastern United States were endless—stretching from the Carolinas to eastern Texas.   Already well known by the 19th century to the turpentine industry and ship manufacturing, long leaf pine was in very, very high demand.   The Industrial Revolution, railroads and unchecked capitalism would eventually devastate the long leaf forests and their ecosystem.  Today, long leaf pine is virtually extinct.


But—there’s good news!  Besides learning the moral lesson in proper stewardship of resources, we would also do well to understand that long leaf pine is still in use today in some of our buildings—heck, it is the reason in some cases why those buildings are still standing!   For architects that love to restore or rehabilitate older buildings, long leaf pine is one reason why we like to say “it has good bones”.  I am really excited about an upcoming opportunity to talk more about long leaf yellow pine at the Traditional Building Conference in Brooklyn, NY, Dec 5-6th and in particular how we put reclaimed long leaf pine to good use on a reconstruction project in downtown Little Rock.  If you’re interested in learning more—and in seeing the wonderful sights of New York City at the same time, consider registering.  You can learn more at


Oh, and by the way, those large stone towers you see holding up the Brooklyn Bridge—yeah, holding them up are caissons built from long leaf yellow pine.



 Aaron  Ruby, AIA, LEED AP


Aaron recently merged the firm he founded, Ruby Architects, with Allison Architects in the summer of 2014.  Aaron has been active in the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures in Arkansas since graduating from the UofA in 1997.  He is a committed volunteer, serving on both preservation and design related groups, as well as serving as a volunteer firefighter.

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