Deconstructing a Pickle Plant

It’s unusual for a town to get attached to a pickle factory. In Scappoose, Oregon, where the Steinfeld’s Sauerkraut plant anchored the economy for decades, neither the family nor the residents could let the old factory go into a landfill. They decided to deconstruct it instead.

Scappoose is a small town about 20 miles north of downtown Portland. Now a bedroom suburb, it had a long life as an independent community of truck farmers and small factories—candlemaking, shoemaking, and pickling. The Steinfeld family first bought land in Scappoose in 1934 to grow cucumbers and cabbages, and shortly afterward, opened a pickling and canning plant in the town. Steinfeld’s Sauerkraut was central to the town’s economy until 1999, when the family sold the business and closed the plant.

The old factory stood vacant until 2006, when it was slated for demolition to make way for a new housing subdivision. The Steinfeld family didn’t want to let go of the building’s history. They contacted Deconstruction Services, of the Rebuilding Center in Portland, to give the old materials a new life.

Deconstruction Services has taken apart many wood-frame buildings before, but they had never tackled a pickle plant. Sara Badiali, Systems Manager of Deconstruction Services, said, “Every project is unique. In every case, what they did to build it, we do in reverse. Since it was built by hand, we’ll unbuild it. The materials come out as they were put in.”

The wood that Deconstruction Services salvaged for the Steinfelds was old-frame timber, well-suited for other purposes. It had an added benefit. Badiali said, “The building was made out of wonderful wood that had been ‘pickled’ by their process.” The Steinfelds decided to donate the wood to the town of Scappoose, which was planning to build a permanent covered structure for its farmer’s market. The pickled wood was reused for a section of the structure.

The old wood continues to sustain part of the economic life of Scappoose. Badiali said, “Part of deconstruction is tying it to the community. It’s sustainable for the materials but there are jobs created too.”

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