Burls on trees are created as the tree defends itself from viruses, insects and other environmental stresses. These are not usually fatal to the tree and the burl continues to grow as the tree grows. The grain and the other markings in the wood of the burl are not the normal grain pattern of the wood from that type of tree. Instead the patterns within each burl are many different curves, curlicues, and strange markings that are revealed as a craftsman creates a “bowl” from a burl cut from a tree.
When the Linden tree near the Fenton History Center lost a large limb in March 2012, the city Parks Department saved the limb as everyone commented on the wood as a favorite of woodworkers. The limb had a large burl and a number of smaller ones. For safety reasons, the city Parks Department removed the top of the tree and saved some of that wood as well. Because of the size of the wood and of the largest burl, it has been difficult finding someone who can try to create a bowl from the burl and from the limbs that contain other small burls. The pictured bowl is the first piece made from this wood.
The Linden tree is also known as a Basswood tree which grows in North America, Europe and even in Japan. It has fragrant flowers in the spring which attract bees that produce honey from the flowers. The wood is relatively light weight and straight grained making it a favorite of cabinet makers and carvers.
The Linden tree near the Fenton History Center has its own history. On May 15, 1932, the John W. Tiffany Post No. 53, VFW and Auxiliary planted this “Mount Vernon Tree” to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. It is a Mount Vernon Tree in that it was grown from one of the Linden trees at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association sold these seedlings as a fundraiser with the proceeds going toward the restoration of Mount Vernon. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association is considered the first national preservation organization in this country. It was started by Ann Pamela Cunningham in 1853 when her mother saw the dilapidated condition of the home of our first president. A grassroots campaign to raise $200,000.00 was undertaken and five years later, in 1858, the organization was able to purchase Mount Vernon and 200 acres. In 1860, the home was opened to the public. This organization continues to own and restore Mount Vernon today.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.