Walnut Wonders was an exhibit featuring functional art, turned bowls and vases, furniture, wood sculptures, toys, musical instruments, kitchen items and folk art from harvested wood from the Ramey Homestead’s large black walnut tree.
The Ramey Homestead Black Walnut Woodworking Exhibit
Items were on display at The Great Frame Up Longmont from Nov. 14 – Dec. 30, 2020. Items were also displayed online.
Thank you to the Boulder County Parks & Open Space Foundation for their support of the exhibit and for contributing to the creation of the booklet. The Great Frame Up Longmont will generously donate 10% of sales to the Foundation.
About the Exhibit
Boulder County Parks & Open Space is excited to involve the woodworking community in telling the story of this property and the large black walnut tree that once inhabited it until it was cut down in 2018 after dying of thousand cankers disease. The tree stood on one of the county’s now protected riparian landscapes just west of the Hygiene community for approximately 140 years. All exhibited pieces were created from the wood of this historic tree.
The work exhibited celebrates the rich history of the area from the establishment of Colorado’s statehood in 1876. For hundreds of years before 1876, the land on which the black walnut tree thrived was home to numerous indigenous peoples that included, but was not limited to, the Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne.
Today, the tree lives on through the creativity and talent of a diverse group of woodworkers whose creations include functional art, turned bowls and vases, furniture, musical instruments, wood sculptures, and folk art amongst other items.
About the Wood
Woodworkers consider black walnut wood to be one of the finest North American lumber species, one that is both beautiful and workable. Along with mahogany and cherry, walnut set the standard for early American furniture.
When the department reached out to the woodworking community to offer it to the public at no cost, it was overwhelmed with over 350 interested woodworkers. The department used a lottery system to whittle down the number of recipients to 84. The largest piece given to a craftsman was 37 inches in diameter by eight feet long. The remainder of the wood of various dimensions was distributed to others while very small scraps of wood were happily accepted by a few participants.
Because the tree was taken down in 2018 and the idea to utilize it to hold a woodworking exhibit was not envisioned until 2019, the wood was subjected to the forces of nature including rain, snow, freezing temperatures, and heat. Some of the pieces given to participants were cracked and difficult, if not impossible, with which to work. Still, determined woodworkers were able to create amazing and beautiful work for the public to admire and to perhaps purchase and take home!
The Story of the Black Walnut Tree at the Ramey Homestead
The story of the approximately 140-year old Ramey Homestead black walnut tree takes us back to the year of 1861 when George W. Webster and his friend, Charles C. True, traveled to the Pella area of Boulder County to farm and raise livestock on a 160-acre property west of present day Hygiene. During this time, Webster made numerous journeys to California to visit relatives and purchased nursery stock to sell in the area. It is surmised that he brought back trees and plants to Colorado to plant on his property and sell to others, including the black walnut tree.
In 1923 the son of Charles C. True sold the property to Charles and Ellen Dawe. Their daughter, Ellen, married Edwin Ramey in 1923 and their son, Charles Ramey, farmed the property until his death in 1998. Charles Ramey’s nephew, David Sevier, sold the property to Boulder County in 2001.
The Parks & Open Space department completed numerous historic preservation projects on the buildings since 2001, with the intent to provide future public access to the property through a self-guided tour of the building exteriors as part of the proposed St. Vrain Greenway Trail. This trail is a planned future regional multi-use trail connection between Lyons and Longmont.
The September 2013 flood severely damaged the property and the buildings, inundating the area and causing a series of significant cut banks resulting in substantial erosion. The barn partially collapsed, and the granary completely dislodged, floated approximately 130 feet east of its original location, and lost the entire east wall. The house, carriage barn, privy and chicken house also were flooded, but suffered less damage.
In 2016, the Boulder County Parks & Open Space department restored the granary and barn to its preflood condition. In a testament to the property’s historic significance, the Board of County Commissioners approved the local historic landmark designation of the property on December 10, 2019.