Coney Island: A Testament to Ipe’s Lifespan

For decades the name has conjured the taste of hotdogs and ice cream, the sound of screams from a nearby roller coaster, the smell of the ocean.  But did you know that the Coney Island Boardwalk, first opened in 1923, was made of Ipe?  That’s right.  This 90 year old tourist destination serves as the perfect example of Ipe’s unmatched durability.  It has supported the foot traffic of millions of people, as well as the weight of garbage trucks, police cars, and other emergency vehicles.  In 1960, it even survived hurricane Donna relatively unscathed, while a concrete esplanade close by was mangled.

In more recent years, the city has begun replacing the Ipe boards, but that doesn’t mean the wood is no good anymore.  Contractors, designers, and woodworkers all over the country have taken these discarded boards and refashioned them into decks, floors, and furniture.

For example, the Brooklyn furniture company Uhuru created a line of Coney Island-inspired designs, which retail for as much as $7,500 apiece.  The essence of the boardwalk has been recreated at the Barnes Foundation Art Museum in Philadelphia, pictured below:

Looking at these pictures, you might have noticed something: the boardwalk has weathered to a uniform silver patina, but the recycled wood products display rich warm colors.  Just because the wood is decades old doesn’t mean the color is lost for good; a little bit of work and Ipe can look good as new.

The fact that this wood, even after years of wear and tear, is still strong enough for practical use and beautiful enough for more artistic projects should tell you something.  Ipe simply cannot be beat when it comes to longevity and performance under pressure.

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