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The Joinery Salvages Old Cain's Ballroom Dance Floor

Updated: Jan 28, 2019

wood floor
This stack of wood will be the flooring in The Joinery. It was the dance floor at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa from January 2008 to January 2017. Photo: Molly Evans

About 1,200 square feet of hard maple wood with a lingering aroma of Cain’s Ballroom is stored in the corner of Nathan Pickard’s community woodshop.

If you went to a show at Cain’s between January 2008 and January 2017, you’ve probably stood, danced, or even gotten married on this wood.

Nathan along with a few friends and his father-in-law salvaged the dance floor when it was being replaced two years ago with the intention of using it in The Joinery.

They started at 4:30 in the morning, bringing circular saws, crowbars, and a few lumber carts from Lowe’s to cut and transport 4-by-8-foot sheets of wood floor. They worked for a couple of hours, dulling blade after blade until Ark Wrecking came to finish the demolition.

“They were putting [the floor] in Dumpsters and then taking it to the landfill,” Nathan said. “So we asked if they could put it in our trailer instead.”

Nathan and the others fished the rest out of Ark Wrecking’s Dumpsters.

“We saved every piece that was broken to use in other ways,” he said.

Slideshow: Cain's floor in Jan. 2017

Photos: Floyd Hinman

As part of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), any new wood used in The Joinery has to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This ensures the wood comes from a sustainably and responsibly managed forest. The LBC does allow salvaged wood, however, making the Cain’s floor not only an environmentally friendly choice but also a cost-effective one.

Reclaiming this wood took several weeks of hard work, but the quality and history of the material was more than sufficient compensation, Nathan says.

“The Cain’s is a three-minute walk from The Joinery,” Nathan said. “It was perfectly ideal.”

The floor will cover the first story of The Joinery and be used for exercise classes, dancing, and woodworking among other flexible purposes—maybe even a wedding.

After announcing The Joinery’s partnership with Cain’s Ballroom this week, I interviewed Nathan about the experience of salvaging the wood floor. Read highlights below.

How he heard about the opportunity

We were having our woodworking and whiskey nights on Monday nights, where we talk about neighborhood issues and sustainability and learn how to work with wood. One of the guys, who was coming a little bit early and making solar panels with my brother, was friends with the bar manager at the Cain’s. The bar manager told him about the opportunity and so then he told me about it, knowing that we were building The Joinery. Then I asked my neighbor, who’s the sound technician, as well.

The Cain's floor inside Nathan Pickard's woodshop. Photo: Molly Evans

On the distinct smell of the Cain’s floor

As we’re cutting it and pulling it out, it had this strong aroma. Then when we brought it to the backyard, everybody that helped bring it afterwards [came] out the back door and it was just like, “Whoa, the Cain’s is in our backyard!” I never really noticed the distinct smell of the Cain’s but now if I walk in there, I know that smell. We were calling it a beautiful mixture of beer, tears, and sweat."

On finding the location of a time capsule

We threw away most of the plywood that the floor was attached to, but I happened to see a little writing on one of the sheets. It said, “Time capsule buried here.” I didn’t even really tell anyone at the Cain’s about it. It was like, “Who knows where that came from?” Then a week or two after, I saw an article in the paper where they found the time capsule on accident and they opened it up. A guy put it in in 2008 right before [the floor was installed]. I saved that piece and it’s in the woodshop.

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