One man's stump is another man's sculpture

The city of Montrose is preserving its history through chainsaw art.

"You just saw what used to be up here lying down here on the ground," Mary Sue Chatfield, Volunteer with the Montrose Riverfront, Inc. said. "It was a sickening feeling."

A windstorm last year almost spelled the end for this historic tree outside the Montrose Library.

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"That tree that had been around so long and had seen so much history and had seen so much history and it was gone," Chatfield said.

After the tree was blown down in a windstorm last fall, city workers had to remove the rest, leaving a huge stump. While several trees went down that day, that tree in front of the library was of particular significance to Montrose. It can be seen in historic pictures, one you see here below in 1910. With that significance, city leaders decided to preserve it.

Al Moander, a local chainsaw sculptor who looked into a stump and saw a work of art just waiting to be carved out.

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to meet Moander and learn about how he determines what carving will appear in each piece of wood.

Feeling that it would be a shame to not do something with the remains of the historic tree which was well over 100-years-old, plans were made for Moander to transform it into a symbol of the library and the role it plays in the community.

"Sometimes the tree is going to dictate to me exactly how this goes," Moander said.

That was definitely the case for the historic tree. Because of termite damage, the original design had to be changed. As Moander studied the stump, another design began to come into focus.

It was a labor of love, not just for Moander, but for the community who funded its development from start to finish.

"It's not often that we have a traffic jam in Montrose but when Al was working everyone had to come by and see what was going on," Chatfield said.

While this little girl will read here for the next one hundred years, the rest of the tree is still being crafted into sculptures and wooden bowls. Volunteer like Chatfield says these items allow the historic tree to take on new life.

"This is a story of what a small town can accomplish when it comes together and sets its mind to it. It tells what has happened following the loss of a historic tree, and how the community has made the best of a sad situation," Chatfield said.

According to Chatfield, the project caught the attention of the entire community, as well as folks from Keokuk, Fort Madison and the rest of Lee County.