Ipswich Library turns a beloved tree into a unique piece of furniture – The Salem News

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2015 3:00 am

Ipswich Library turns a beloved tree into a unique piece of furniture

By Amanda Ostuni Staff Writer

Salem News

IPSWICH — The Ipswich Public Library has a new table in its Rogers reading room, and its no ordinary piece of furniture. 

The table was crafted from the town’s storied American Elm tree which stood on the corner of County and East streets until it succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and was felled in 2012. 

The tree was more than 250 years old and was referenced in the writings of John Updike. When it was felled, the Ipswich Shade Tree and Beautification Committee decided to distribute the wood among local artisans, woodworkers, furniture makers and builders to use to craft special items. The Friends of the Ipswich Library got involved by commissioning Fred Rossi, a craftsman and furniture maker in Manchester, to create a table out of the wood. 

“I build things from wood all the time, but it’s rare that I have a project that will have emotional or historical ties to the actual materials,” said Rossi. 

Dorothy Johnson, current secretary and former president of the Friends of the Ipswich Library, said that it took them some time to find someone to take on the project, but once they found Rossi, he jumped into it eagerly. 

Rossi said then-library director Victor Dyer told him they wanted a refined piece of furniture, “not a piece of a tree on four legs.” As soon as Rossi saw where the table was to go, he knew what he wanted to do. 

“It’s a round 36-inch diameter table that sits in front of the fireplace and they wanted to preserve the history of the tree,” said Rossi. “So I came up with a design that would be round, invoking a section of the tree, but made it in 16 sections that radiated out.”

Once the designs were drawn and approved by the board of the Friends of the Library, so began a long process of bringing the idea to life. 

Rossi’s design was approved before the Department of Public Works had cut up the felled tree. So, Rossi set things in motion. He convinced a sawyer to quarter saw the log. Rossi felt that quarter sawing — when the tree trunk is cut more like a pie than in strips — was necessary for his design. Quarter sawing is not often done because it’s more difficult than the standard flat-saw style. Next, Rossi noticed that the wood was wet and believed it would take two years to dry naturally, so they had to search the state for a kiln to dry it. By the time a kiln was found, and the wood dried and delivered to Rossi, he said it had been about a year since the whole process began. 

He started building the table in February of this year. 

“You don’t get to work with Elm much anymore because there’s not a lot of them,” said Rossi. “Elm disease wiped out the trees. But this is very pretty, nice straight-grained wood with beautiful warm tones in it. It has personality.”

Rossi had to build special “tools and jigs” to make his design work. He also made brass buttons and set them into the tabletop. Each button is engraved with a number that corresponds to a significant date in the history of the library or town. The dates and their meanings are noted in a brochure made to accompany the project. 

“[The buttons] tie the tree’s growth to the history of the town and really creates a tie between the tree, the library and the community,” he said. 

He finished the table off by setting a glass top in it, leaving a 1-inch wood edge. 

Johnson is thrilled with Rossi’s creation, which was completed this spring and placed in the library about two weeks ago. Likewise, the current director of the library, Patty DiTullio, is happy about the table’s presence in the reading room. 

“The elm tree has a history in our town, so we’re really lucky that we’ve been able to keep that here in the library permanently,” said DiTullio. “We didn’t lose the history when the tree was taken down. It will be here forever.”


We have sent a confirmation email to {* emailAddressData *}. Please check your email and click on the link to activate your account.

We’ve sent an email with instructions to create a new password. Your existing password has not been changed.


Thursday, June 11, 2015 3:00 am.


Write a Reply or Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.