By Jennifer Alger, Far West Forest Products
In 1886, nine-year-old George H.P. Lichthardt planted a camphor tree on the corner of what is now 18th and Capitol Ave in Midtown Sacramento, California. As the camphor grew it got to see the city streets change from dirt to pavement and the vehicles change from horse drawn to motorized. It also saw the corner turn into a bustling busy street, and businesses come and go including many stores and pharmacies. While it was a pharmacy, legend states that escapees from Folsom State Prison attempted a robbery and stray bullet ended up in the wall of the building. The camphor even had a street-side view of the grand opening of the original Java City Coffee House in 1985 and has since been known at the “Java City Camphor”.
The Java City Coffee House became a hub for artists, authors, and poets to discuss literature, politics, and current events. The discussions frequently ended up outside under the massive canopy of the ancient camphor. Local historian William Burg said, "that was the hip epicenter of city in the late 80’s, and 24 hour poetry marathons, and discussions of music and writing would take place there."
Over the years the tree began to succumb to verticillium wilt and sadly had to be scheduled for removal to ensure the safety of the buildings and people in the surrounding area. There was such an outcry from locals who had loved the camphor tree through the years, that the officials decided to delay the removal to allow for a proper farewell celebration of the landmark tree. A yellow ribbon encircled the base of the tree at the final farewell as city residents gathered to say one last good bye. Many said goodbye in silence, while others with tears flowing told stories, read poems, and shared various memories they had enjoyed under the Java City Camphor in its more than 120 years of life. At the time of its removal it held the title for the oldest Camphor Tree in Sacramento.
In 2012, Woody Biggs from Woody’s Urban Forestry Products brought a log to us at Far West that was about 13 feet in length and nearly 6 feet in diameter that he was able to salvage from the mighty camphor tree. Woody has a mill that will cut average diameter logs, but knew he would be wasting a piece of history if he were to cut this beautiful treasure down to fit onto his sawmill. He decided it would be best to bring it in to us to mill on our Wood-Mizer WM1000 sawmill and preserve the Java City Camphor so that the slabs could be enjoyed for years to come as dining and conference tables. If you are interested in seeing pieces created to capture the tree's history, check out Far West Forest’s camphor offerings by visiting www.farwestforest.com.
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