Hidden beneath the aged patina of the historic seaside walkways is an extraordinary tropical hardwood figure that is consistently clear, dense and 100% heartwood, with deep exotic color hues of amber, van dyke brown or beige, like savannah grass, depending on which of the varied hardwoods emerge from the planing machine. These are the qualities that made woods like Mahogany the gold standard of early American furniture, the sublime beauty of its surface matched by the tragedy of enslaved loggers at the source. Today, conditions have improved for workers, and it’s the world as a whole that’s hit with the impact of tropical logging, through global warming. Reclaimed tropical hardwoods, the tiny supply that exists, may be the last chance, for at least a few generations, to enjoy old growth exotic woodwork in the built environment.
In the case of the South Street Seaport, the dense rot-resistant woods of the African tropical forests, especially Ekki (aka African Ironwood) – were used, common in Europe for heavy marine applications or even the tracks of the Paris Metro.
At the South Street Seaport, the historic entre-port of Manhattan Island; they served as boardwalk decking planks where time imparted a Rhino grey patina over an exquisite hairline-check pattern. Because of the complex molecular structure of this jungle wood, it’s is not recommended for use in narrower than 4/4″ thickness, making it ideal for decks, exterior walkways, planters or counter tops. It’s rare that tropical hardwoods can be used in good conscience and carry historical provenance – but for projects looking for the woods unparalled aesthetic and performance qualities, the ship has arrived with reclaimed African Ironwood.