Maine Timber Industry Growing Despite Paper Mill Closures


The forest industry remains a crucial element in Maine’s economy despite the recently announced closure of Madison Paper Industries, which will result in the loss of 215 jobs. According to the Maine Forest Products council, the forestry industry pours about $5 billion into the state’s economy each year, and sawmills are bustling day in an day out as the demand for timber continues its upswing.

Though foreign competition, wood prices and startup capital have thrown a wrench in the industry’s recovery from the 2008 economic recession, the outlook is good. At Kennebec Lumber, which produces about 60 percent of its lumber and hardwood flooring from local trees, business has grown 10 to 15 percent over the last eight years.

“Our sawmills are fairly healthy,” says Patrick Starch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “They’ve invested millions during tough economic times, so they’re all looking for housing starts to improve. The housing market has gradually been improving, but we’re ready for an upsurge, and that’s going to e reflected in people feeling better about the economy.”

Biomass facilities and pellet plants in Maine have struggled to compete with low gas and oil prices over the last mild winter, but again, the long-term outlook is good. Biomass accounts for 60 percent of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio, and without healthy markets for it, low-grade wood and sawmill residue would clog the state’s forests or landfills.

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Photo: Paul VanDerWerf / Flickr Creative Commons


Modern Monographs: White Pine Adds to Island Living Ambiance

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A beautiful two-story cottage on Peaks Island in Maine is outfitted in sustainable local Eastern White Pine for a smooth look that will take on even more character over time as it’s exposed to the weather. This issue of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, released in 2010, explores how owner and builder Harvey Johnson used the wood to achieve a signature island feel with added protection against the seaside wind and moisture.

“The ‘waxy, rot resistance’ of white pine is not the sole reason for Harvey’s choice in siding and trim. The high quality of well-graded pine delivered from a local supplier assured that the material would be very stable and free from cupping and warping. Straight planks are essential for siding, especially when going for a particular ‘flat look’ achieved by shiplap.”

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An interior design project incorporating Eastern White Pine in a Maine island retreat is also detailed, with the owners seeking a result that would be warm, comfortable and inexpensive, with high efficiency standards for energy consumption. Smooth gypsum walls are offset with Eastern White Pine accents to ‘warm up’ the interior, framing and enhancing the texture of the natural wood.

Read more about how white pine is used to enhance island living ambiance in Maine at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Made for Maine: Rustic Eastern White Pine Log Cabin

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The natural beauty and character of Eastern White Pine logs is so striking, sometimes it just needs to take center stage. That’s certainly the case when it comes to log homes, which put all of the architectural focus on the simplicity and charm of raw wood, resulting in a home that feels like it’s a part of the forest.

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One example is this 1700-square-foot residence on Brassua Lake in Maine, designed and built by Grandview Log & Timber Frames. Set at the water’s edge, surrounded by trees, the home seems like a natural fit in its environment, the logs giving it a sense of weight and timelessness.

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Full-round log homes use thick, smoothed-down logs stacked together with notched ends. Careful shaping as well as the weight of the wood create solid, well-sealed walls that don’t require any sort of mortar.

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The striking simplicity of these structures, best seen when they’re still under construction and consist of nothing but the log frame itself, has been prized for century after century. See more Eastern White Pine log homes at

Architectural Monographs: Colonial Standouts of Wiscasset, Maine

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An influx of wealth from exports of Eastern White Pine and other species of timber resulted in a profusion of beautiful Colonial buildings in Wiscasset, Maine in the late 1700s. Located on the Sheepscot River, with easy access to the sea, Wiscasset remains a charming port town with many of those beautiful early structures still standing, drawing in fans of Colonial history and architecture.

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One standout Colonial building of Wiscasset is the mansion of Capt. William Nickels, completed in 1808. Legend has it that it took two years just to complete its front hall, and when you see photos of how intricately carved it is (above), that’s not hard to believe.

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The Smith House, built in 1792, is even more famous, not because it’s more intricate, but because locals allege that it’s haunted. A widow’s walk on the roof gives it a hint of atmosphere, though it’s impeccably well-kept and sparkling white to this day. The stories go back to the 1800s, when passersby reportedly walked on the other side of the street because they found the home peculiar. Unexplained incidents in the home include eerie footstep sounds and an elderly woman rocking in the parlor only to disappear suddenly.

Read more about Wiscasett’s famous Colonial architecture at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Diagonal White Pine Paneling Gives a Fresh Look to Maine Cottage

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Diagonally installed wood paneling can be a fresh, visually interesting, modern update on the warm, cozy wood-lined look. The lines create a sense of movement, making a room feel more dynamic than it would with horizontal or vertical paneling. In this case, it was installed in a gorgeous green cottage getaway on an island 20 miles off the coast of Maine.

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Designed for a journalist and retired professor, who has owned the lot on this off-grid island for years, the cottage has lots of floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the views of both the forest and the sea. Most of the construction work on the home was done without the aid of power tools. (See more photos at Dwell.)

Want to get this look in your home? Wood paneled walls have made a big comeback in recent years, so there are plenty of inspirational projects online that’ll give you ideas of your own. Check out a gallery of diagonal paneling at, which features everything from dark and dramatic focus walls in a living room to modern bathroom installations.

Architectural Monographs: Old Houses on the Southern Coast of Maine

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“It is a strange anomaly that the white pine, with its home in a land of harsh winters, growing amidst the constant stress of wind and storm, should have a fiber straight as a ruled line, a surface soft and smooth as silk, and that its grain, instead of being gnarled and twisted, should be so even and fine that it will respond to the most delicate of carving,” observes C. Howard Walker of watching the logs come down the Penobscot River in Maine in Volume VI, Issue II of the White Pine Architectural Monographs. Written in 1918, this issue covers older homes on the southern coast of Maine, as well as the challenges faced by the lumber industry during World War I.

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Portland, Bath and other Maine coast towns benefited economically from the East India trade in the first century after the Revolutionary War, leading to ‘comfortable fortunes’ and the construction of a number of private homes for ‘amphibiously minded merchants of Maine.’ Many were built between 1800 and 1810 with a combination of hardware, relief ornaments, wallpaper and other materials brought in from London, and other elements created by skilled New England carpenters.

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A special section in this issue addresses how the lumber industry shifted to meet war conditions, particularly transportation problems due to a railroad embargo. “Every order placed for lumber at the present time must carry with it the understanding that there can be no guarantee as to shipment. …But with a patriotic spirit the existing situation can be met so as to cause no real hardship to anyone. There is one encouraging feature of the situation. The problems of the lumber industry are no worse than those that many other businesses are obliged to meet – perhaps not as difficult as some. Lumbermen are not slackers.”

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Read more in Volume VI, Issue II of the historic White Pine Architectural Monographs.