Mackintosh Restoration Project Boosted By Historic Massachusetts Cotton Mill Discovery

The Mackintosh Building project at The Glasgow School of Art has been given a boost due to the discovery of identical pine wood sourced as salvage from a Massachusetts cotton mill. The original building which suffered from a catastrophic fire three years ago has been the subject of a multi-million-pound renovation project. The majority of the building was saved however the library and Japanese-inspired Studio 58 above was lost. 

The wood had come from a building which had been constructed at the same time as the Mack

In 2016 a section of The Picker Building, one of the last structures built as part of the historic Massachusetts Cotton Mills complex, was being demolished (as part of the programme to convert the building into affordable residential apartments). High-quality southern yellow pine timber was carefully reclaimed from the building by Cambridge MA based Longleaf Lumber. Meanwhile, in Glasgow, the Mackintosh Building restoration team was searching for just such high-quality timber to replace the upright columns in the famous Japanese-inspired Studio 58. 

“Studio 58 is one of the very special spaces in the Mackintosh Building,” says Liz Davidson, Senior Project Manager for the Mackintosh Restoration. ”We know that Mackintosh was heavily influenced by Japanese design and in Studio 58 this was seen particularly clearly,”

“The original wooden uprights had been made out of American yellow pine which we knew had come from Massachusetts. So when our contractor, Kier Construction, began the search for replacement timber they immediately looked into possible sources in the area where the original timber had come from at the turn of the 20th century.” 

“We were delighted to discover that not only did Long Leaflumber have the quality yellow pine in the size that we needed, but that the wood had come from a building which had been constructed at the same time as the Mack,” she adds. 

“Longleaf Lumber is truly excited and humbled to be part of such a tremendous restoration project,” a spokesperson said. “It is fitting that these beams, cut from the grand longleaf pine forests and originally milled for a factory in the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, have been reclaimed and repurposed in a restoration effort that pays homage to an architectural master who was influenced both by nature and the industrial changes of his time.” 

Eight 13-1/2 inch x 15-1/2 inch x 23-foot beams were loaded into a shipping container in late 2016 for the trip across the Atlantic and arrived in Scotland at the beginning of this year. After testing and shaping the wood was ready for the final part of its journey from Cotton Mill to Artists studio. 

Four massive replacement uprights were finally craned into the Mackintosh Building and manoeuvred into place in a delicate and complex operation. This landmark day cemented the relationship between Glasgow and Massachusetts which had begun over a century ago at the time when both the Picker Building and the Mackintosh Building were constructed.


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