Hannah Holland ’15
Last Wednesday, April 11, in the Rittenberg Lounge, Ted Esselstyn came to discuss his rapidly advancing furniture business, City Bench. City Bench is no ordinary furniture company. This company takes an avant-garde approach in its use of previously untouched city trees and determines what dictates beauty for a set of table and chairs or a bench.
Before City Bench, urban trees that had fallen down due to natural causes or that were in need of removal would end up in “stump dumps” no matter how majestic, old or useful they might have been. Esselstyn shared a few pictures of the desolate and foreboding “stump dumps” that laid waste to what he saw as perfectly usable wood. The vast majority of these trees would be ground into mulch, used for firewood, or simply left to sit and rot. New York City alone tears down seven thousand trees per year that had been left unused until now.
Essentially, City Bench is assigned a tree that is to be taken down or has fallen and is commissioned to build benches, tables, desks or what have you from the wood. The trees are cut down and then cut length wise, as opposed to the more traditional blunt firewood cuts, with a band saw and then stacked and dried for six to eight months. Following the crucial drying period, the wood is placed in a dehydration kiln for two weeks where as much as fifty gallons of water could be extracted. After this, the building begins. City Bench creates uniquely handcrafted furniture that captures the essence of the tree that it once was. Esselstyn’s furniture extends the life of the tree and reverence of the trees’ story. Beneath every piece that is crafted there is a bronze plaque, or “birth certificate,” that describes the trees origin, significance and story.
As the seminar drew to a close, Esselstyn urged the Trinity community to monitor what happens to the trees in the soon to be renovated Mather Quad. The old Cherry Blossom and Ginko trees that have called Trinity their home long before any student graced the campus could find their future in the shallow pit of a “stump dump.”
Luckily, City Bench is concentrated in Connecticut and the tri-state area, so their vision for trees and wood is at our disposal as a community. Hopefully, companies of this magnitude with such honorable intentions will begin to appear all over America. While City Bench is undeniably geared towards eco-friendly achievements, it is their honest motives and clear passion that make them such an innovative company.