Brantview Spruce Trees Given New Life

March 22, 2022
When trees mature, it is fair and moral that they are cut for man’s use, as they would soon decay and return to the earth. Trees have a yearning to live again, perhaps to provide the beauty, strength and utility to serve man, even to become an object of great artistic worth.

—George Nakashima



In January 2018, contractors removed eleven over-mature spruce trees from Brantview Lawn, where they had grown for over one hundred years. Safety concerns that the trees would grow weaker and slowly collapse under their weight necessitated their removal and replacement with disease-resistant elm trees. Their removal at that time also meant that the lumber from the trees was still sound enough for building projects.


Those same trees have begun a new life as Capstone podiums four years later.


When Fine Woodworking instructor Matt Stark ’96 arrived back on campus as a teacher in 2013, some students presented their capstone projects while standing behind a metal music stand. After watching the students’ difficulty on the biggest day of their academic careers, Mr. Stark and his students began working on a solution. He challenged his advanced classes each year to design and build podiums for various events, most often for senior Capstone Day. With over twenty podiums constructed so far, it has been a project that fulfills the school’s unofficial motto, “leave this place better than you found it.”


Three months after being removed from campus, the trees were milled out by former Forestry instructor Jessica Bakowski and her students on the school’s field campus. The boards were put aside to dry until earlier this year when the students got to work.


The students began designing, building, cutting, and sanding the spruce boards into two sleek podiums in January. At the same time, Fine Arts instructor Rod Reis ’82 worked with Mr. Stark’s students to create golden SJA emblems to include on the podiums. Under Mr. Reis’ direction, the students made a copy of the Academy emblem and used epoxy resin to create large circular logos, which were then covered with 24-carat gold leaf by Mr. Reis and attached to the podiums.


As the elm trees grow in their place, the spruce trees live on in the podiums and whatever other projects Mr. Stark and his students can craft from the remaining boards. But the goal remains the same: that all of these projects last as long as it took the trees to grow.


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