Wood, Steel & Glas, Inc.

Historical Importance of Atlantic White Cedar (Click Here for Photos)

To early colonists, this species seemed as if it were designed to be used as a building material

No other wood in the densely packed virgin forests of North American was more prized than the white or "swamp" cedar.  First used by Native Americans for cedar strip canoes, the valuable properties of white cedar were soon coveted by early colonists.  Because this wood is easily worked, holds nails exceptionally well and is very resistant to splintering, checking or splitting, it was used for a variety of applications.  But what really separated white cedar from the many other available species, and made it so valuable as a siding and roofing material was its tremendous decay resistance.  For centuries, this wood proved itself a match for sun, rain and even blowing sand standing up well to the harsh elements of the rugged eastern seaboard.

 The silver gray color of naturally weathered white cedar is often emulated as attempts are made to match the rugged look and color of colonists' sidings.  Early structures including barns, houses and covered bridges were built just to function well.  They had to be durable and the weathered silver gray color was just what the wood did.  Now this silver gray color has become a beloved trademark of colonial New England.

Unfortunately, the wood that helped protect early Americans from the harsh northeastern climate is virtually forgotten.  Heavy logging of white cedar combined with a senseless destruction of the wetlands has decreased the availability of this material.  And the original source of our modern siding emulation is virtually completely forgotten.  So the next time you read an article about an early American home with a beautiful, rugged silver gray exterior, remember the forgotten wood, white cedar.

Current Historical Projects - Comstock Covered Bridge

Recently, the town of Easthampton, Connecticut decided to re-side the only state owned covered bridge in Connecticut.  There was some initial discussion as to the choice of material and the state looked to the Connecticut Historical Commission for advice.  Initially, the thought was to go with what originally covered sided the bridge.  However, this proved a difficult question and no determination could be made regarding the original siding.  Both white cedar and pine were indigenous to the area and had been popular choices when this bridge was originally sided well over one hundred years ago.  The commission then decided to base their suggestions on a combination of historical accuracy, economics and aesthetics.  Though white cedar had a higher initial cost it was reasoned its durability would give it extended life and value well beyond what pine could offer.  The project was completed in the fall of 1998 after we were able to pre-weather some of the material to minimze the "graying" period as the wood will already be seasoned to a light silver gray. Comstock Covered Bridge Photos.

Wood, Steel & Glas, Inc.

9 Old Post Road
Madison, CT 06443
Tel  203 245 1781
Fax  203 245 0755
email: info@whitecedar.com 

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Updated May 25, 1998
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