This table is one of our favorites we've designed in the last few years. Its trestle base is made of distressed antique heart pine. But the top is the gem: it's an original hatch cover of a Liberty Ship.
Liberty Ships were American “Emergency” cargo ships designed to carry supplies to the fronts of World War II. 2,711 Liberty Ships (2,710 as one was burned at the dock) were built between 1941 and 1945, beginning with the SS Patrick Henry. The majority of shipbuilders employed during this period were women, as there was a shortage of labor resulting from the draft. Of these, 88 were built and put to see in Savannah Georgia. This hatch cover is likely from one of these 88.
Called “ugly ducklings” by FDR, and often referred to as “workhorses of the deep” any one of them could carry one 1 and ¼-mile train’s worth of “D” rations, or .50 caliber ammunition, or a two-mile train’s worth (260) medium tanks, to name some of their typical wares.
Other than integrity necessary to cross the perils of the North Atlantic or Pacific, avoid foundering, encumbered by upward of 11,000 tons, deadweight, each workhorse prepared for exposure to wartime dangers, some even lost to mines, explosions, torpedoes, collisions, even kamikazes. They did not have an untarnished life-expectancy.
To return to the hatch cover, as part, and not a so insignificant a part at that, of these “deep’s workhorses”, it embodies even more the strength and stability desired in a tabletop. In fact, the wood selected for all hatch covers was longleaf pine, like our reclaimed heart pine flooring and furniture. This was due to the strength and impermeability of longleaf pine, and its natural resistance to corrosion and damage due to sea-storms and sea water. The steel-capped table-ends are aged and recall this durability even through the vicissitudes of time.
Of course we aren’t the first to implement these hatch covers in the kitchen. In fact they underwent a sort of home-decor revival in 1970s, and became so sought after that counterfeit reproductions were made overseas. It was likely a desire for the romance of sea faring, but also the staid navy greyblue weight to supply a room with a light gravity, but regardless there are plenty out there that are fakes. Our case is far less dubious as Liberty Ships made in Savannah right down the road, and happen to turn up now and again either from the river itself, or uncovered from garages around town. We found this one and eight others in the back of a garage, and culled it from a ship graveyard of sorts into a living operational piece of furniture, neither “ugly” nor a “duckling.”
We still have a handful of these hatch covers at our shop, if you're interested in one of these tables, or any other furnishing! Contact us for information.