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“It’s like hunting for endangered species and putting the trophy of an animal’s head in your study.” 

Meegan Czop, who works at Chicago’s Rebuilding Exchange, realizes the comparison she’s making between hunting and salvaging old buildings for raw material is a bit gruesome. But, she still gets a thrill finding a new purpose for the detritus of decades-old construction, and the hunting metaphor is apt. 

The Rebuilding Exchange has made a name for itself upcycling material for architects and designers—wood from a South Side bowling alley was used to build the offices of Trunk Club, the online bespoke fashion powerhouse, for example. And the RX recently collaborated with Strand Design to create stylish benches and clocks from reclaimed material. But the company’s current project, helping find a home for wood from the Old Globe Grain Elevator in Superior, Wisconsin, may be its biggest job yet. The eight-story mill, completed in 1887, is one of the largest in North America and could provide over five million board feet of lumber—“enough to rebuild Wrigley Field"—to designers. The wood is all old-growth timber that’s been smoothed out into intricate, wavy patterns by decades of erosion from falling grain. The RX crew is racing to get as much material as they can before the bank forecloses on the land, and have already found architects and designers interested in utilizing this rare cache of wood.

“People should have the same appreciation for this material as they have for finding old vinyl,” says Czop. “It can be dangerous working up there, wielding a chainsaw on a boom, but this is a salvager’s dream come true.   

Put in an order for your old growth grain elevator wood at Rebuildingexchange.org