County cuts down 'Hobson Oak' near Naperville
The tree known as the Hobson Oak has been standing in the same spot since well before white settlers came to what is now Naperville.
And although crews cut down the decaying tree on Thursday, the historic bur oak's story is far from over.
Preservationists who united after arborists determined the tree was a safety hazard say its wood is on the way to becoming a keepsake, transformed into lasting works of furniture and art.
Located along the north side of Hobson Road at Greene Road near Naperville and Woodridge, the oak stood for generations on unincorporated property owned by DuPage County. One of its limbs had drooped closer to the ground in recent years, creating a low clearance over a nearby bike path.
County officials, the Naperville Parks Foundation and businesses including John Greene Realtor collaborated to ensure the tree would be preserved instead of turned to wood chips. The plan is for artists to donate pieces they'll create from salvaged wood for sale during charity auctions.
Carolyn Lauing-Finzer, a community activist who called the oak "an icon," said she's happy some of the wood will be made into benches and bowls.
"It's a phoenix story because although the tree is coming down today, it will rise again in the form of art objects," she said.
The removal took several hours Thursday and was "such a concert of collaboration and skills," said Mary Lou Wehrli, secretary of the Naperville Parks Foundation and a DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioner. While county employees did the cutting, sheriff's deputies directed traffic and kept drivers and onlookers safe.
About 30 people stopped by to pay homage to the tree that long had been a landmark. Wehrli described the scene almost like a wake -- a somber attitude of reflection prevailed as the trunk was cut down and tree-lovers realized just how hollow the oak had become.
Preservationists soon will accept applications from artists looking to turn the wood into something special. Wehrli said portions of the tree that must be kiln-dried will be available in six months. Until then, she said the group overseeing the tree's future will post updates at hobsonoak.com and on Facebook at "The Hobson Oak."