Kentucky’s Longwood Antique Woods: The Original Green
by Kim Thomas
Re-purpose, re-use, re-cycle? Reclaimed wood with a live edge? George Gatewood at Lexington’s Longwood Antique Woods was setting this trend long before it hit Dwell Magazine. Or as he puts it, “I’ve been in this business for 23 years, and I was country, when country wasn’t cool.”
Gatewood, who grew up in Mt. Sterling, has come a long way since the days he built his first tree house out of barn wood, followed by the bar he built in college out of reclaimed wood. He owns and operates Longwood Antique Woods, a wildly popular salvage company that began offering ‘green’ wood in 1991. He and his team create flooring as well as beams, mantels, doors and furniture — even a log cabin if you so desire — all made from repurposed wood from historic buildings slated for demolition.
Imagine making your next mint julep on a bar made from restored wood from one of the barns where five Kentucky Derby and Belmont winners were bred.
If you’ve been out to eat in Lexington lately, you’re already familiar with the warm glow cast by Longwood Antique Woods. Dudley’s, Pies and Pints, Crank and Boom, Tony’s, and the upcoming Goodfellas in the Distillery District are all home to the re-purposed lumber that George Gatewood and Longwood Antique Woods have been painstakingly rescuing for decades.
Gatewood initially sold the wood he rescued and rehabbed to a company in New England, but ultimately decided to keep the wood local and mill the materials in Lexington, at his warehouses on Midland and Delaware Avenues.
He considers the best wood for flooring purposes to be oak, heart pine, chestnut, and poplar. “Wood such as hemlock or wood that has weathered too much finds new life as wall-boarding in restaurants such as Pies and Pints and Crank & Boom, and in Dudley’s downtown location, where the treatment was made using wood recovered from an historic Midway Farm — we installed the flooring at Tony’s as well.” They’ve also provided the wood for multiple Goodfellas locations, including the upcoming “Goodfellas Distillery” which is slated to open in Lexington’s Distillery District in the fall. Gatewood has been commissioned by Maker’s Mark along with Jim Beam distilleries to create conference tables and other items from antique recovered wood.
He is an affable fellow who puts you at ease right away. Of his faithful sidekick, Huckleberry (a St. Bernard of spectacular size), he says, “everybody knows him.”
His showroom is located on Midland Avenue, and there you can find wood for flooring, wall décor and more. Much of the material has been recycled from old barns in the area, some even from Churchill Downs in Louisville. His customers include builders and remodelers, businesses (restaurants and retailers especially), and homeowners.
Once we connected after a few rounds of phone tag, he was as neighborly and generous as Kentucky itself. He had just returned from a terrific trade show in Nashville, where he “very much enjoyed the music, displaying my wares, and a maybe more than a little beer as well!” He enjoys the feedback from the folks who attend the home and garden shows.
Longwood Antique Woods on Midland Avenue showcases reclaimed wood from historic buildings, such as the original farmland in our community. He tells us, “When Hamburg was being developed, I took apart at least 15 barns on that property over the years that project was being completed. Even today, we have reclaimed wood from a barn which stood on the Costco property.” Also available at Longwood is material from Churchill Downs. “When Churchill had to clear two barns out of the way to install the JumboTron, I worked with the contractor, bought and removed the wood, then put it through the process of reclaiming.”
Gatewood’s crew includes a fulltime staff of de-nailers, woodworkers, and master craftsmen. He has been recognized in numerous national publications, including Garden & Gun (where he has a special connection, via the materials Longwood provided for their office space). He looks forward to showing his work at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Rolex 3-Day Event as well as hosting an exhibit at the Blue Grass Historic Trust Antique & Garden Show in March.
Antique and reclaimed wood is the original ‘green’ way of home improvement.
Longwood Antique Woods has been in the business of reclaiming and recycling old wood for twenty-three years and has supplied countless material solutions for floors, doors, bars, beams, furniture art, and much more. The antique wood in their collections is salvaged from historic barns, warehouses, and cabins slated for destruction throughout the Bluegrass of Kentucky. “Our mission is to supply a green product with a unique history; whether it is from the barn of highly recognized War Admiral or rural farmer Papa Shepard. These products add to the architect’s ‘green’ ratings and the end user’s sense of environmental responsibility, all within an historical context without harvesting a single tree.”
“The team of historical craftsmen at Longwood is committed to their role as caretakers of early American architecture. They meticulously disassemble buildings slated for destruction, and recycle the antique wood to produce a unique range of products and historic collections. Each building’s past is researched with respect and appreciation for its historic and aesthetic importance. The salvaged wood is then restored, rather than being lost forever.”
This story originally appears on page 7 of the March 2016 issue of Ace Weekly.
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