New Life Begins for Hobson Oak

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The Hobson Oak, which once stood on Hobson Road at the entrance of Naperville, is one step closer to living on in a new way.

After being cut down for safety reasons in November of 2016, many have been waiting anxiously to have a part of the Hobson Oak. Finally it was time for artists to give the old tree new life.

The smell of fresh sawdust was in the air at Wehrli Furniture in Naperville, where local craftsmen and artists collected their choice cuts of the Hobson Oak.

“Well 250 years ago this tree had its birth and now it’s finding its rebirth,” said Mary Lou Wehrli, secretary of the Naperville Parks Foundation. “It’s been identified by many, many, people as a significant feature on the landscape and when its time came to come down, DuPage County working with the Naperville Parks Foundation, were able to save the tree’s lumber and the acorns. And today, after the lumber has been kiln-dried, there’s an opportunity for artists and craftsmen and woodworks, to come together and pick a piece, or two, the lumber they see a vision in, to create something out of that oak.”

The beloved Burr Oak will be turned into everything from furniture and jewelry to guitars and even beer.

“And now we just use it for the actual character that it brings to the beer, it brings a character that’s a little bit vanilla from the vanilla that naturally occurs in the wood,” said Josh Mowry, a co-founder of Miskatonic Brewing Company. “So we plan on this fall, having a very fresh style of beer using the oak and then in the spring we’re going to be making a beer that’s more meant for longer aging, to be aged for maybe six months before we roll it out with some of the furniture that’s coming out too.”

The Naperville Parks Foundation asked that each piece consist of 75 percent oak from the tree, but the creativity was left to the craftsmen.

Many were proud to work with the wood of a tree that meant so much to the community, like Bruce Kamp, who was one of the first craftsmen to turn bowls out of the Hobson Oak.

“I’ve been in Naperville for 40 years,” said Kamp. “I’ve gone by that tree many, many, many, times, so it had a little bit of a meaning for us also to be able to participate in this. It’s something that’s 250 years old, has such a legacy and it’s nice to be a part of that.

The Naperville Parks Foundation hopes to have all pieces done in 2018, with some possibly finished by this winter.

Once completed, the collection of pieces will be put up for auction to the public. Proceeds will go to local nonprofits, which have yet to be chosen, and the Naperville Parks Foundation.

Hobson Oak seedlings will also be available at Possibility Place and the Morton Arboretum in 2018.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.