While Heights activists were unable to spare it from developers, a century-old tree that once shaded the corner of Oxford and 23rd Streets is getting a second life — thanks to eco-friendly artisans at the nearby Green Painter home design store on 19th Street.
The 106-foot American Sycamore — considered the second tallest in Harris County by the Trees for Houston group — was chopped down in June amidst protests and petitions, making it just one of many large trees controversially toppled by builders hoping to keep up with Houston's booming residential market.
But instead of watching the historic tree make its way to the wood chipper, designers with the Green Painter and its parent store New Living have worked closely with local tree experts to secure pieces of the sycamore for the company's in-house furniture studio.
"Trees tell a story and I think that people want that story to be told."
"It's amazing to think this wood come from a tree our grandparents' parents would have planted," explains Cooper Meaders, the designer leading an effort to transform the neighborhood tree into a small line of handcrafted furniture. "It's cool to have materials with that kind of local history."
For New Living founder Jeff Kaplan, the response from customers in the Heights has been overwhelming.
"This project really strikes a nerve within the community," he says. "Trees tell a story and I think that people want that story to be told. You can actually count the rings on this sycamore and see what's happened in its life."
Similar to the local food movement, Kaplan feels his clients want to stay connected to how and where products are sourced.
Customer Shannon Langrand, for example, has commissioned a 13-foot dining room table as a token of her children's earlier years growing up in the Heights as well as a nod to the city's often-overlooked history.
"This is an amazing way to honor a tree that's been in the Heights since the area was first developed," she says. "It's nice to do something positive with it after it was torn down this summer."
For more information, visit the Green Painter along the 19th Street Shopping District in the Heights or stop by the New Living shop at 6111 Kirby in Rice Village. Click here to see the company's most recent furniture designs.
Catch a brief look at the making of Langrand's table by Houston filmmaker Marlon Hall: