Native to the Eastern half of the US, it is harder than red oak by about 5-10%, making it an excellent choice for flooring, furniture and all manner of molding. It's true value comes in the form of it's exterior utility. Unlike the open pores in red oak, white oak will seal its pores with tyloses as the wood converts from sapwood to heartwood. This makes the wood suitable for marine use and barrels. The presence of tannic acid keeps fungus and bugs away, giving it very good rot resistance. The reproduction Columbus ship was crafted of white oak.
Rift cut lumber shows a straight linear appearance, without showing off the rays like true "quarter sawn" lumber
"Quarter Sawn" lumber shows the vascular rays that are present in all woods. Some species show a large, elongated flake, while others have tiny, almost invisible ones.
This shows the end grain of Red and White oak. There is a passage in The Last of the Mohicans that describes some barrels being made of red oak and their contents leaking out. I think any barrel maker would be able to spot the difference fairly easily and not make that mistake. This is one simple way of determining whether an old floor or piece of furniture is red or white oak. The grain must be seen in the Heartwood, as the sapwood of white oak still has open pores.
"Quarter" sawing wood to produce "edge grain" makes the wood more stable, but just about doubles the price. The added stability allowed people 100 years ago to put thin Oak floors on top of Longleaf pine subfloors (plywood was much too expensive for construction use until about 1960). Many floors in San Antonio's Monte Vista historic district are actually quite thin. Some homeowners splurged for the thicker version (3/4" thick ) and some even then added an unnecessary longleaf pine subfloor (often at a diagonal to the room ) for added stability. There was no true "standard". Each house was tuned to the owner's taste and budget. (and desire to show off)
Very commonly if someone had spent the extra money for quarter sawn lumber, they wanted everyone to know it. In the 1910's and 20s, White Oak furniture and millwork was more often than not exposed to industrial ammonia fumes to blacken the tyloses. This made the rays or flakes stand out against the rest of the wood. This technique was referred to as a "fumed" finish and would only work with white oak as opposed to red oak or other woods.
The "mission" and "craftsman" styles that were so popular at the time relied on simple, flat trim instead of heavily detailed or ornamented moldings. It was therefore very important that these surfaces showed attractive graining.
Even the 1905 Sunset Depot in San Antonio had a budget, apparently. During renovations, the construction of the handrail that Selena Quintanilla used in her video for "No me Queda Mas" was revealed. Longleaf Pine was laminated for a core, and then quarter sawn white oak was attached around that. No one had a clue as to the construction until removal for replacement 100 years later.
The identical version of this door from a 1905 house Monte Vista designed by noted architect Alfred Giles was on the front of our 1916 general store turned office building. While trimming the end of one door, the interior core was revealed. The Quarter sawn White Oak was only about 1/4" thick, and the core was laminated pine, probably a white pine.So, people have been cheap for a very, very long time. The floor in this house was also only about 5/16" thick.
As traditional as it may seem, white oak can be used in the most contemporary of settings. Noted modernist architect Ken Bentley favors white oak for his personal projects, both interior and exterior. He adds no stain or process to interfere with the natural grain and beauty of the wood.