City Bench turns Waste Wood into Campus Furniture

April 19, 2012

As urban trees die off or are taken down for development purposes, a new company is working to extend the life of these trees in the places they once lived. 

In the 19th century, the United States went through a period of intense admiration for nature. When  Dutch Elm Disease led to the disappearance of many trees, American citizens took it upon themselves to re-cultivate organic beauty. The early 1900’s witnessed a great burst of tree planting in many urban areas.  The popular cherry trees in Washington DC were planted during this time and Chicago’s municipal forester declared tree planting mandatory in front of every home. Now the generation of trees planted approximately one hundred years ago is perishing, creating a substantial amount of dead lumber. Typically, this wood is used for fire logs, but there are many instances in which mills are unable to utilize all of the resources, leaving massive amounts of wood wasted.

City Bench TableIn 2009, brothers Zeb and Ted Essylstyn decided to pursue different and more sustainable ways to maintain the beauty of a tree after it is cut down. They  create furniture with the resources that would be wasted otherwise. Their company City Bench was developed in order to extend the visual lives of those trees and create unique and custom objects that could remain in the community.     

City Bench now contracts with the city of New Haven to receive a portion of the cut down trees. After curing their first collection of wood,  in 2010 they were able to create furniture, most of which they gave back to the city, to be used as benches on the New Haven Green. “New Haven typically cuts down 600 trees a year,” says Zeb. “At City Bench, our goal is to highlight an underutilized resource and make it beautiful.”

 City BenchCity Bench tries to return their final products to the tree’s original place of birth. When Stiles and Morse Colleges were remodeled, the trees removed were used to create the intricate woodwork we now see in the common rooms and dining halls. As it looks to expand to other institutions, City Bench will continue to focus on creating furniture that fits the ambience of its future home, and allow the beauty of trees to live on past their predestined terminations.