Beaches Living Guide Spring/Summer 2015
Maple Tree Forever:
Legendary Canadian Landmark Lives on in Art
A Tree Falls, but its Spirit Lives On In Art
Not so long ago, an ancient silver maple tree towered above the historic site of Maple Cottage. One of Leslieville’s historic gems, the Cottage, also known as the Grande Orange Lodge, is tucked away on the quiet Laing Avenue, between Greenwood and Leslie streets.
A special, almost magical tree, the maple was known as the muse for Canada’s unofficial national anthem Maple Tree Forever, though some say that’s an urban myth. Alexander Muir, a poet, soldier and school headmaster, supposedly wrote the patriotic song for Confederation in 1867, inspired by leaves falling from the branches of this magnificent tree.
A Windstorm Topples Our Ancient Giant
On July 19, 2013, a windstorm felled the revered maple. The tree was somewhere between 170 and 180 years old.
The City of Toronto decided to give the tree another life, by inviting the public to turn the tree into art. They also named the park behind the cottage, Maple Tree Forever Park.
Artists and wood carvers stepped forward with ideas large and small, volunteering their skills and their energy.
Evergreen Mills the Tree, and Gives the Wood to the Artists
In March 2014, the tree was milled at the Evergreen Brickworks in the Don Valley, with a ceremony honouring the old giant. Raw wood pieces were turned over to the artisans and carpenters, millworkers and woodturners, to re-purpose into artwork that would and travel far and wide to museums and historical venues across the country, and honour the memory of this special tree. Venues like the Royal Ontario Museum, the Library of Parliament, the Toronto Public Library and more will all have their own memento of the tree.
The Tree Lives on with a Giant Sculpture at Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Wood Carvers’ Association received a seven-foot-high piece of tree trunk, which is being transformed into a sculpture for the Ontario Science Centre. Some 35 maple leaves will carved into the wood, each depicting aspects of our city’s history included the face of Alexander Muir, the Rouge River Valley and our first city hall.
Other pieces include a new podium for City Hall created by at-risk youth at Dixon Hill Neighborhood Services, guitars commissioned by Blue Rodeo musician Colin Cripps, a House of Commons bench to honour the late leader of the NDP, Jack Layton, and many more.
One Great Tree Transformed into 4,000 Works of Art
Over 4,000 works of art were created from one tree, and 12 were auctioned to raise funds for the nonprofit organization, Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF). In that way, too, the spirit of the maple tree lives on in the people who care for trees across our city.
At Maple Cottage, the trunk remains, and a plaque tells visitors of the great tree that once stood here. A sapling from the maple was planted last June at the Todmorden Mills Heritage Site.
And the tree has travelled far and wide. Our magnificent silver maple may be gone, but its memory lives on in art.
Ontario Wood Carvers Association; Green Living Show; LEAF; Toronto Star; Jane’s Walk