How well does Eastern White Pine complement other species of wood? Let’s take a look at some gorgeous examples from a New Hampshire-based timber frame company for an answer. Founded in 1974 by Tedd Benson and inspired by the durable timber buildings made by pioneers in the region, Bensonwood aims to design sustainable homes that matter “using a whole-house approach that follows the process from design to move-in.” With over 100 employees, some of whom have been with the company for over 40 years, Bensonwood produces beautiful residential structures ranging from classic to contemporary, and everything in between.
Bensonwood often uses a mixed palette of wood species in its houses, but the result is always clean, cohesive and complementary. What’s particularly nice about the use of Eastern White Pine in these structures is how its natural qualities are used to create contrast with those of species like Douglas fir, cedar and oak. A contemporary two-story timber frame home built in Holderness, New Hampshire in 2016 employee pale whitewashed Eastern White Pine for all ceiling panels and roof boards, which seem to gleam especially brightly beside darker round posts and timbers.
We spot Eastern White Pine ceilings again in the 3 bedroom farmhouse on Spofford Lake, a low-maintenance energy-efficient home that’s Energy Star Certified, balancing the vivid tones of cherry flooring.
In the Winnipesaukee Island Home, a prefab timber frame cabin, Bensonwood accents Eastern White Pine walls with cherry accents and sets Eastern White Pine stairs against modern cable guardrails.
It’s always cool to see the diverse ways architects, builders, designers and craftspeople use Eastern White Pine in their projects. What have you made with it lately?
We took a look at the history of Eastern White Pine in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in Volume XXVIII of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, published in 2009, exploring its origins as a major purveyor of white pine lumber and the legacy of the architecture that was built with it. Now, let’s zoom in on one of Portsmouth’s most beautiful and celebrated historic structures, the Governor John Langdon House.
Built in 1784 by John Langdon – merchant, shipbuilder, Revolutionary War leader, signer of the United States Constitution and three-term governor of New Hampshire – the Georgian mansion is a sight to behold, even from far across its lawns. Praised for its beauty by George Washington, who visited in 1789, the house boasts grander proportions than most residences of that era as well as an elaborate entryway sheltered by a portico topped with a balustrade.
But the defining feature of the Governor John Langdon House might just be its spectacular interior woodwork, all carved from Eastern White Pine. The extraordinarily high level of craftsmanship seen in the trim, staircases, ceiling medallions and other elements of the home are attributed to master joiner Ebenezer Clifford, who also worked on many other old homes along New Hampshire’s Piscataqua River. During that time, millions of board-feet of Eastern White Pine would have been flowing down the river to the port of Piscataqua, headed to the colonies.
Langdon spared no expense on these Rococo-style carvings, and it shows. Visitors admire them in person at the mansion, which is now a National Historic Landmark and open for events and private tours. A recent artist residency at the house by regional sculptor Amanda Fisk even focused on “the overlapping roles of eastern white pine in our nation’s history and in Langdon’s life and career,” noting the importance of the species in the mansion, the ships Langdon built and the local economy.
To see the oldest white pine house in Portsmouth along with details on the Buckminster House, the Wendell House and other notable Eastern White Pine structures in the city, check out the White Pine Monographs.
Two architectural designers have modernized the classic rural New Hampshire home, building their own residence from wood cut down on their own property and locally sourced Eastern White Pine. Working on a tight budget with sustainability and a chic industrial-rustic hybrid aesthetic as their goal, the couple built nearly everything from hand, including the kitchen cabinetry, and achieved Energy Star certification.
The interior of the home is lined with Eastern White Pine finished with Monocoat white oil, from the wide-open living room with its wood stove focal point to the spa-like bathroom with all of its built-in storage. They call the kitchen ceiling an experiment, but the way the slats screen the lighting creates an unusual effect that highlights the beauty of the wood, creating dynamic lines that stretch across the space.
Large sliding Eastern White Pine doors with hanging storage on their backs enclose lots of shelving in the master bedroom closet. Among the most visually interesting features is the slats that screen off the stairs in the living room, but don’t completely enclose them, helping the space feel larger and providing a place to hang a television.
Eco-friendly features include a rooftop solar array, heat recovery ventilation system and a heat-pump hot water system. The couple has documented the entire building process on their blog, and note that “Every new home should be seeking Energy Star Certification. As long as your not cutting corners, meeting the requirements is easy and the amount of documentation needed is minimal as compared to other certifications such as LEED. And compared to other certification programs, Energy Star pays you and not the other way around.”
Images via Eagle Pond House and Dwell.
The lumber industry was an integral part of New Hampshire’s earliest days as a British settlement, helping to make Portsmouth the 14th largest city in the colonies by 1790. Located along the Piscataqua River and originally named for it, Portsmouth was New Hampshire’s capital until the Revolutionary War, when it was deemed to open to attack by sea. The city’s architecture and use of Eastern White Pine remains among its most notable traits all these centuries later.
Some of these beautiful pine structures are still a draw for architectural experts, students and tourists, who come to get a first-hand look at mansions hewn from the tranquil forests that surrounded them. Back then, nearly every part of every building in the city was made of Eastern White Pine because it was so abundant.
In 1775, an astonishing 42 million white pine shingles and 14 million board feet of Eastern White Pine were being shipped from the port of Piscataqua, exported all over the colonies and to England.
Read more about the early history and get a look at some of the city’s most striking historic wooden buildings in Volume XXVIII, Issue I of the White Pine Monographs.
One of the greatest pleasures of reading the historic White Pine Monograph series is looking at photographs of how historic buildings looked nearly a century ago, when most of these explorations of Colonial architecture were written. This issue from 1918 is no exception, taking a look at the ‘picturesque village’ of Amherst, New Hampshire. Today, this small town located 15 miles southwest of Manchester is still very much characterized by its historic New England flavor.
Amherst was an even smaller town when this edition was written – the influx of residents that have swelled the town’s population to a whopping 11,000 didn’t come until after World War II. The author of this monograph describes Amherst as ‘unspoiled,’ writing “There are electric lights and the general store and garage have gasoline for sale; but the woodbine twining around the electric light poles seems to give a symbolic suggestion of its real aloofness from the world.”
The home of Colonel Robert Means stars as one of Amherst’s most noteworthy historic structures, and it’s pictured throughout this issue. A single family inhabited the home for nearly 80 years leading to a minimum of change, and no dilapidation. In the early 1900s, the home still contained the furniture that it was filled with some twenty years after the Colonel’s death in 1846.
Read more at the White Pine Monograph Library.
Along the border of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in the towns of Ashby, Templeton, Fitzwillian and Westmoreland, some of the 19th century’s most beautiful wooden country meeting houses can be found. They’re beautiful examples of what can be created with wood, especially in terms of exterior detail and ornament. This issue of the historic White Pine Monographs, written in 1925, includes photos of standout structures as they could be seen in the early 20th century. The author notes that at that time, only the Templeton meeting house still stood without significant alteration.
“Built at the beginning of the last century, these simple structures are remarkable for the richness and originality of their exterior detail and ornament. They show the wooden country meeting house of a hundred or more years ago at its best. In many ways they are very similar. They are all set on high ground, fronting on village greens, with their backs to open meadow or woodland and, in two cases, a country graveyard. They can be seen from afar off and dominate, by bulk and height, each composition of town and landscape.”
Of Westmoreland, the author writes, “Here we encounter the Tuscan Doric in all its New Hampshire glory. The white woodwork, the dark green blinds, the slate roof and the red cupola make a pleasant picture at the upper end of the sloping column. We sought information from pleasant people living at the foot of the green who, giving us the key, told us to be sure to climb the tower. This we did and beheld the silvery beauty of the Connecticut Valley.”
Read more at the White Pine Monograph Library.