The Hudson Company: A Thriving Upstate Wood Mill in Pine Plains, NY
Pine Plains, NY
Before The Hudson Company was a supplier of reclaimed wood flooring for the east coast’s top designers and architects, it was Antique and Vintage Woods of America, a company founded in 1995 by a retired math teacher in Kent, Connecticut. By 2009, the company was crafting wood floorboards and paneling from old barns, mills, and bowling alleys for local homes and businesses, but hadn’t quite tapped into New York’s design and architecture communities where there seemed to be a growing trend in using reclaimed wood for commercial and interior design projects. Entrepreneur Jamie Hammel changed all that.
Raised near Amish country in Reading, PA, Jamie grew up with an appreciation for agrarian architecture, but had a traditional business background that took him from Wall Street to Condé Nast to NBC. While researching businesses with a focus on sustainability, he discovered Antique and Vintage Woods of America, and recognizing the quality of the product and proximity to the city, made a bid to buy the company in 2010. “I saw a chance to scale and repackage the existing product specifically for the design and architecture communities,” says Jamie, who did a top-to-toe rebranding — from name to website — and created the infrastructure to work on decidedly large projects, such as the new Whitney Museum of American Art, 1 Hotel Central Park, and retail stores like Patagonia and Rag & Bone.
Today, Jamie’s 30,000-square-foot upstate mill is the second largest employer in Pine Plains, NY after the local high school. The company has grown from eight employees to a team of 25 specialists in carpentry, woodwork, and design, all of whom are involved in the reclamation process, including sourcing the wood from old barn siding, disused Manhattan water towers, and 19th-century industrial structures across New York State and beyond. “From barn to factory, we handle the denailing, re-sawing, grading, kiln drying, molding, and more right here,” says Jamie. “We’re a manufacturing company in the state of New York, and that’s not easy, but we’re trying to create a company where people want to spend their whole careers.”
Clients are encouraged to visit the mill during the design and manufacturing process, although much of the planning work is done at their showroom in Brooklyn’s Dumbo. “We love when people come to the mill. The whole process is very educational as there are so many challenges with reclaimed wood,” says Jamie. “With the sample in their hands, clients can tell us if they want more character or less character, or to bring out a certain feature of the wood they love.”
“I love to see the real signs of history in this wood — the centuries-old nail holes, cracks, and dents that really give it its character,” says Jamie.
“Of course there’s a finite amount of reclaimed wood, but we’re not at the end of the road yet,” says Jamie. “We’re always looking for new sources, from barns to industrial tanks to mushroom farms, and we’re also expanding to pre-finished and non-reclaimed wood sources.”
“We get a lot of great product from mushroom farms,” says Jamie. “Mushrooms grow in these dank and dark cinder block houses that are filled with manure-packed wooden bunk beds. They quickly erode and need to be replaced, so we’ve partnered with mushroom farmers to take the old boards and supply new planks. All the wear and tear leaves a real sculptural texture that looks like it’s been wire brushed. We use it on a lot of wall paneling and for some flooring.”
Denailing is the first step of the reclamation process — done by hand or with specialized tools — before being resawn into specific dimensions.
The Hudson Company tapped into New York City’s design and architecture worlds soon after Jamie’s arrival in 2010, collaborating on projects like the Gramercy Park Hotel lobby and various Patagonia stores, where the wood flooring and paneling is central to the interior design.
Working with reclaimed American wood in an American mill means they can offer almost any length of timber, cut to any design. “Most flooring companies manufacture overseas, so the wood is cut in short lengths to fit in a container to be shipped, but we don’t have those restrictions, which appeals to designers and architects looking for something unique,” says Jamie.
“Our wood is a handcrafted artisanal product that requires state-of-the-art equipment,” Jamie says of the intersection between trade and tech. Molding, for example, is done by machine, but the molding knives are all made custom to fit almost any design.
The company made a splash at Field + Supply this past fall, collaborating with designer Brad Ford on a Donald Judd–inspired custom stage made from center cut white oak. Used to host musical acts over the course of the weekend, the stage now lives at Hasbrouck House for future performances.
Between a flooring project for the new Anchorage Museum, the growth of their pre-finished wood offerings, and the launch of a flagship showroom in the Flatiron District, 2017 is looking busy for The Hudson Company. “We want to be a company of long-term relationships and I hope clients will return to us for all their design projects.”
During a two-year collaboration, The Hudson Company supplied wood flooring to the new Whitney Museum in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The distinctive heart pine was reclaimed from a Philip Morris factory in Louisville, KY. By the numbers, it was 270,000 boards made from 28 tractor trailer loads of 22-foot-long beams, all denailed, resawed, treated, and cut into five- to 15-foot boards and given a white chalk finish. “It has a warmth of character that gives the floor a lot of life,” says Jamie.
Installation view, 5th floor, America Is Hard to See ( May 1 – September 27, 2015)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y.
Photo by Gentl and Hyers
For 1 Hotel Central Park, Jamie’s team supplied reclaimed maple flooring from an old factory in Western Massachusetts. “Maple is a closed cell species, so it was often used on the floor in factories to resist the wear and tear of the machines,” says Jamie.
Photo by Gentl and Hyers
One of Jamie’s favorite projects, a purpose-built private home in Millbrook, NY, was designed solely around the wood flooring, which runs the entire length of the house. “This isn’t a reclaimed piece, but a white oak that we hand selected for its incredible length,” he says. “The homeowner gave us a year to find it and we took it down ourselves, then milled, dried, saw and fit the 10- to 24-foot-long boards. We were part of the entire process.”
Photo by Gentl and Hyers