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Detroit Craftsmen Sift House Rubble in Quest for Treasured Wood

A Reclaim Detroit worker pulls up hardwood floor at an abandoned house on March 11, 2015.

A Reclaim Detroit worker pulls up hardwood floor at an abandoned house on March 11, 2015.

Photographer: Bryan Mitchell/Bloomberg

Detroit’s 70,000 abandoned homes are proving to be a trove for entrepreneurs who recycle century-old lumber, glass and brick into everything from terrariums to $4,500 guitars.

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” said Craig Varterian, executive director of Reclaim Detroit, a nonprofit group that’s stripped and sold materials from almost 70 demolished homes. Floorboards and joists of early 20th century maple, walnut, hickory, fir and even chestnut are prized for their density and fine grain.