Felled trees slated for new purpose
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer
A large black walnut tree was felled Oct. 10 in front of the First State Capitol Building in downtown Corydon. Considering some of the criticism from the general public, you’d have thought the Constitution Elm was the tree being removed.
Corydon resident Nyla Smith believed the tree was about a hundred years old. Bruce Beesley, vice president of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, said that the tree was actually in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 years old.
Some people believe it was cut down because state historic site employees didn’t like picking up walnuts each fall. And others believe the reason there was short notice about the tree’s removal was because the state wanted to remove it without too much protest (very unlikely; outside of the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge in New Albany, when was the last time the state moved quick on anything).
After consideration, the state had the perception that the tree posed danger through flooding issues due to clogged drainage at the site and the possibility that the tree could eventually fall onto the old capitol building.
When it comes to saving a tree or saving the First State Capitol Building, I think most of us would go with saving the building, no matter how remote the perceived danger. And if you don’t believe in perceived danger, then why do you wear a seat belt in your car? Or purchase health or vehicle insurance? You do those things in case something bad happens. In this situation, the state felt like the tree wasn’t as important as the building, so it was removed.
Even if Smith’s belief that the tree was 100 years old is correct, that still puts it emerging from the ground at about 1911, about 86 years after the capital of Indiana was moved to Indianapolis. From that standpoint, there’s little in the way of real, local historical value (like the Constitution Elm) to the tree other than where it stood for a number of years.
On a personal level, sure, it’s been there a long time and no doubt people of our generation will miss seeing the tree on the southwest side of the front of the capitol building. And it’s sad that a healthy tree had to come down.
But, there’s a silver lining to every storm cloud.
The next generation of schoolchildren across the state will actually get to see the building ‘ the cornerstone of the town of Corydon and what truly put this town on the map ‘ in all its limestone glory.
That’s a good thing.
Tourists will have ‘clean’ photos of the building, which should really stand out at this year’s Light Up Corydon. Another good thing that will come out of this is that the massive amount of wood from both the black walnut and a nearby oak tree, which was removed the same day, was salvaged by several members of the Harrison County Artisan Center.
According to Rita Koerber, who is on the Artisan Center board, a large table will be made from the wood for display at the center. Wood will also be used for bowls, pen sets and whatever else artists can come up with. Fearing the wood would simply be cut up for firewood (which is actually what was going to happen to it), Koerber and the rest of the Artisan Center board pounded the pavement to find out where the wood was going (behind Old Capital Golf Course), and how they could save it (the golf course gave it to the Artisan Center).
Skilled craftsmen will now be able to create art that will last for generations to come, allowing the black walnut to live on.