The Massachusetts Cotton Mills Picker building in Lowell, MA, is now one of the city’s final mill structures to be renovated for alternate use. The brick walls will soon contain 70 new apartment units for moderate and low-income families. During construction, demolition contractors carefully salvaged timbers to be re-sawn by Cambridge, MA, based reclaimed lumber company Longleaf Lumber.

The massive Massachusetts Mills buildings were constructed between 1839 and 1911. The Picker House on the complex was built in stages on new land created with river fill: Section nine in 1892, Section 10 in 1904 and Section 11 in 1911. Virgin Heart Pine timber was shipped from the South for much of the interior structural members.

In 1989, Mass Mills undertook an ambitious adaptive reuse project, converting a part of the complex into 182 apartments. Those involved were interested in continuing renovation at Mass Mills, aware of safety issues in the remaining vacant buildings. In 2009, a young trespasser fell through six floors of the still vacant Picker House, injuring himself severely, and a 2012 fire further strengthened resolve to continue the momentum.

Further renovation was delayed for years due to challenges, but a solution was reached when Section 10 – 1/3 of the structure – was slated for demolition. High-quality, large 12- x 16-inch x 23-foot Heart Pine beams and decking were removed from the site and delivered to Longleaf Lumber’s mill in Berwick, ME, to be sawn, dried and re-milled into flooring and other finished products.

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