Local Man Commissioned To Do Carvings From Ancient Tree

Friday, September 10th, 2010 at 7:18 am

When the oldest known tree in Minneapolis didn’t leaf out this spring, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department had some difficult decisions to make. After all, the Ancient Oak has been overlooking the Mississippi River Gorge for an estimated 333 years.

The tree is coming down, but will not be lost forever. A local man has been commissioned to do two carvings and a sculpture out of the wood of the tree, and the work will be displayed at the capital building.

Bob Haedt of Pine City, known by many residents as “Santa Bob,” has been given a rare opportunity. Haedt is a very talented wood carver and an “amature Minnesota historian” by his own account, and he will be merging those two loves for the benefit of Minnesotan’s.

Haedt says he will be carving “Minnesota symbols” including a loon, a walleye and also a sculpture out of the wood from the Ancient Oak. His specialty is allowing the grains of the wood to act as scales on fish or feathers on the birds he carves, thus the carvings are never painted. Bob also uses his own mixture of bees wax (he’s also a bee keeper), turpentine, and tung or linseed oil to protect the works.

The tree, located near Fort Snelling, was 44 feet high, measured 51.25 inches in diameter, and was 161 inches in circumference. Theodore Wirth wrote in 1941 in Minneapolis Park System that the tree could be anwhere from 150 to 700 years old based on the views of botanists of the day. The tree was a bur oak – Quercus Macrocarpa – and it is now estimated that it initially sprouted way back in 1677.

Haedt said he’s the “only one individual that’s going to get some wood from the tree,” and concluded by saying he was “pretty proud to be able to do this.” Haedt believes it will take him a couple of months to produce the works, but feels great when he thinks that something so old will now live on, in part, due to his handiwork.

Listen to Bob talk about this exciting development!

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  1. pc person 09/10/10 at 9:15am

    what a great story! we love santa :-)

  2. Rosie P 09/11/10 at 1:29am

    Bob, you are one totally fascinating individual with so many talents! The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department has made a perfect selection in choosing you to bring life back to this ancient bur oak.

  3. sensible1 09/11/10 at 9:35am

    I agree with Rosie…Bob is very creative & talented. His work is top notch.

  4. jesse 09/13/10 at 7:10am

    Thanks to all for commenting on this story. I’ve had many others contact me via email, and have been very satisfied with the community response.

  5. Carol J 09/29/10 at 9:34am

    It is so nice to see the talent that comes from Pine City. Bob is such a genuinely nice and talented man, he certainly deserves this commission.

  6. Heather M 10/5/10 at 11:26am

    The tree is located in my home neighborhood of Seward. I grew up playing under this tree and my family attended the neighborhood ceremony for the tree in July. I’m now a Pine City resident and am proud to find that a Pine Citian has been given the honor of this historical project.

  7. Tracy W. 10/8/10 at 11:07pm

    Having seen beautiful examples of Bob’s woodworking skills dating as far back as the early 70′s, I am confident he will do a fantastic job on this project, too. I’m looking forward to seeing the end results!

  8. Dianne Vosberg 10/23/10 at 8:54am

    I’m so proud of you! Quite an interesting story. Your gift will be treasured forever.

  9. Heather 03/23/11 at 9:32pm

    Just following up on this story: is this the same artist who did the beautiful wood carvings for the Pine City library’s new front desk? If not, does anyone know if Bob has his artwork from the Ancient Oak on display yet?

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