Woodworker William Olsen found what he believes is a hole made by a musket ball in wood from the Tree of Heaven which was cut down near the Ashland plaza in 2006. - Bob Pennell

Well-known tree reborn as table

An old tree with a long history on the Ashland Plaza has been made into a table that sits in the city's Community Development Department offices.

The Ailanthus altissima, or tree of heaven, had been on the Plaza for more than 100 years, but it was cut down in March 2006 after the Parks Department decided it had become a hazard.

Woodworker William Olsen took on the project of turning the wood into a piece of furniture for the city as a way to support the community and because he liked the prospect of working with that wood, he said.

But in having the wood milled, Olsen found it to be full of decades of bullets, bolts and other foreign objects. At the end of the milling process, only 250 to 300 board feet of material was usable, much less than Olsen had hoped.

The wood dried for about three years, and then, as Olsen was planning the design of the piece, he learned a metal detector used on the wood still showed evidence of foreign objects throughout, making even less of the wood usable.

After more than four years of drying, planning and building, the end result is a 5-foot table on display in the Community Development Building at 51 Lithia Way.

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