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DailyTidings.com
  • PIECE OF HISTORY

    Tree of Heaven reborn as table

    Popular Plaza landmark was cut down in '06
  • When William Olsen cut into the ancient Ailanthus altissima that had been on the Plaza for more than 100 years, he cut into a piece of Ashland history.
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  • When William Olsen cut into the ancient Ailanthus altissima that had been on the Plaza for more than 100 years, he cut into a piece of Ashland history.
    History cut back.
    The urban tree, with decades of bullets, bolts and other foreign objects embedded in it, destroyed milling blades and saw blades as Olsen attempted to preserve the tree as a piece of furniture for the city of Ashland.
    "Nobody wanted to see that tree come down," the Ashland woodworker said. "I had seen too many fine old trees cut down and bucked up for firewood."
    After more than four years of drying, planning and building, the end result is a 5-foot table that has found a home at the Ashland Community Development Department.
    "It's just a beautiful memory of that graceful tree that was on the Plaza," city spokeswoman Ann Seltzer said. "We're just delighted that someone was willing to take the time to make it into a beautiful piece of furniture."
    The Ailanthus, known popularly as the tree of heaven, was cut down in March 2006 after it had grown so frail that the Parks Department decided it had become too much of a hazard to stand.
    Olsen was excited to work on the project as a way to support the community and because he liked the prospect of working with that wood.
    "Tree of heaven is an exceptional material to work with," Olsen said. "This stuff mills up and just stays flat and the wood is naturally a beautiful yellow."
    After the tree was limbed and then cut down, Olsen hauled off a 9-foot section of the trunk to be milled into usable segments in Ruch.
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