Beloved Hamilton tree that became safety risk sculpted into bench

A beloved and ancient Northern Red Oak that had to be cut down because it became a safety hazard after a large limb fell from it is becoming a sculpture with benches that will mark the site.

“It’s kind of setting for seasoning to finish drying out,” said sculptor Jonathon Michaels, the owner of Organic Art in Forest Park. “And then we’ll sand and shellac it.”

That will happen after the winter, he said.

“As far as the sculpting goes, it’s completely done, other than just adding some color to it, and some varnish,” he said. “It did take a little longer than expected. The weather had a lot to do with it, and then October hit, and I travel all over the country carving pumpkins.”

In 2014, the tree won the grand prize in the Hamilton Tree Board’s shade-tree contest.

The sculpture is dedicated to Fort Hamilton, the military outpost that once occupied the site, and to the tree itself, Michaels said. One side of the back-rest depicts a tree and its roots, while the other represents a large wave with smaller rapids, reflecting the Great Miami River immediately to the west.

Workers started on the project in July, using chainsaws and other tools.

The large oak tree, believed to have been one of the city’s oldest, was so beloved that Steve Timmer of the Hamilton Parks Conservancy said at the time the tree had to be cut down that he was hoping its 61-inch-diameter base could be recycled into something, such as benches.

In addition to his Organic Art company, he is lead sculptor for Artic Diamond Ice Sculptures, which is owned by Brady Lantz and carves ice statues and other artworks for Hamilton’s IceFest, and other events, such as at Kings Island’s Winterfest.

Most of the artworks he creates don’t last long. In addition to ice and pumpkins, he also carves cheese, fruits, vegetables and melons. He’s also carved soap for Procter & Gamble. “I carved over 200 pumpkins in October,” he said. For the Halloween season he was in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan twice, and Washington, D.C.

“I love how the seasons change, and with the seasons, the medium changes,” he said. “Obviously, ice carries through the year — that’s a full-time job,” with weddings, anniversaries, corporate events and other celebrations.

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