Wood from 100-year-old Denver tree to be made into furniture

Furniture is now made from the old white oak in the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver.

DENVER – Saying goodbye to a beloved neighbor is never easy. The Cherry Creek neighborhood said goodbye to one of its longest-lived residents Tuesday.

“It’s sad to see how it’s going,” said Ryan Dirksen. “Part of Denver’s history disappeared one afternoon after 100 years of making a living.”

The neighbor had guarded the property and house at 444 Milwaukee Street for about 100 years.

“It’s a European oak – a white oak,” said Dirksen. “Quite rare to be that big.”

The beloved resident was an old white oak tree that was probably planted in the early 20th century on the property that is now to be renovated. In 2001, the city and county of Denver rated the tree as one of the largest of its kind in the state.

Denver Parks and Recreation’s Dave Hull wrote to homeowner Laura Lee Coleman that he believed it could end up being the greatest.

“It is a lovely tree indeed and I am sure it will remain for many years to come,” Hull wrote.

The last day of the oak was Tuesday, and after about five hours of removing the limbs with chainsaws, the tree finally fell.

“Heirloom-quality furniture can be made from certain parts of this tree,” said Dirksen of his plans to transform the tree.

Dirksen owns Where Wood Meets Steel, a 15 year old furniture company. Part of his business is grinding the wood, which he will do for Milwaukee St. Oak.

“Development is real and we are trying to live hand in hand by using the tree and turning it into something that may live for another 100 years,” said Dirksen.

Lynn Coleman, whose mother Laura Lee Coleman owned the house for decades, turned to Dirksen to find another use for the tree. Lynn said her mother grew up during the Great Depression and never liked trash.

“One of the things that she really believed in is that you should reuse whatever you can,” said Lynn Coleman. “That’s why she wanted the tree to be reused, not just turned into mulch.”

Before Laura Lee Coleman died in January 2020, she urged her daughter to find a way to somehow keep the tree alive. And then Lynn Coleman found Dirksen.

“I felt like this was an amazing tree, it took a life if you will,” said Lynn Coleman. “Hopefully it will make a lot of wonderful furniture out of it and a lot of people will appreciate it.”

The reincarnation of the tree will take a while, said Dirksen. He will grind the tree, and then it will have to be stored for more than a year so that it is dry and ready to be made into furniture.

“You can’t speed up the process or the wood will freak out,” said Dirksen.

But he said he knows it’s worth the wait.

“It’s a good story and it feels good to be a part of it – and it’s exciting to be able to work with such great material,” said Dirksen.

> Click here to see Ryan Dirksen’s work at Where Wood Meets Steel

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