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John Giannotti’s Relief Painting of Historic Buttonwood Tree + More..

Philadelphia Inquirer Article February 16, 2021

Buttonwood Project_Attachment to Media Release_2021Jan15
Large painting (by John GiannottiHaddonfield dinosaur sculptor)
uses bark from historic buttonwood tree
What: Unveiling of John Giannotti’s Relief Painting of Historic Buttonwood Tree
When: Monday, January 18, 2021 at 11:30am
Where: Window of Gibbs Tavern Building, Kings Highway East and Mechanic Street, Haddonfield


Three years ago, a historic buttonwood tree that had stood on Kings Highway in Haddonfield for more than 250 years was taken down.

The borough’s Shade Tree Commission had determined that the tree, whose trunk was known to be hollow, posed a danger to the public. (The trunk had been partly filled with concrete decades ago, to stabilize the tree, and several limbs had been secured with wire cable. During Haddonfield’s Sidewalk Sale in August 2017, a very large limb fell into the street alongside the tree. That may have sealed the tree’s fate.)

The buttonwood — an American sycamore — was one of two planted by Haddonfield Quakers in the 1700s to mark the entrance to a lane leading to their meetinghouse. The trees attracted particular attention after the Haddonfield Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed signs on one of the trees in 1899: “The British ARMY Passed Under these Trees after Evacuating Philadelphia JUNE 1778” and “THIS STREET was Laid Out and Surveyed in 1681, by order of the Representatives of the KING of ENGLAND and called ‘YE KING’S HIGHWAY.'”

Haddonfield Mayor Neal Rochford visited the site on January 15, 2018, while the tree was being taken down. He had been asked by a resident to direct that parts of the trunk and some limbs be saved, so they could be turned into objects of art and utility, rather than wood chips and firewood. And so The Buttonwood Project was launched.

A number of South Jersey woodworkers received pieces of the tree and have been working on a variety of projects. Several projects have been completed; others are in progress.

• John Morris of Woodstown, formerly of Haddonfield, has made several small boxes with lids. (Some years ago, John was a member of the Committee of Carpenters that made historically authentic furniture for the Indian King Tavern Museum.)

• David Leader, of Glendora, has made some vases, pens, and fan-pulls.

• Jeff VanderKuip of Haddonfield began work on a drink rail for the King’s Road Brewery in Haddonfield. After he relocated out-of-state, Moorestown woodworker Jeff Braddock took over the project and made a gorgeous table that was installed in the brewery in August 2020.

• John Giannotti, who created the Hadrosaurus foulkii dinosaur sculpture in Haddonfield, has completed a large relief painting as a tribute to the tree, recreating a 100-year-old photograph of the trunk and signs. After laying down a low, rounded sub-structure to simulate the curvature of the trunk, John applied bark he had harvested from the buttonwood’s trunk, giving the painting a three-dimensional, tactile quality. See attachment.

The 66″ x 44″ relief painting will be displayed in a storefront window in the former Gibbs Tavern, on the corner of Kings Highway East and Mechanic Street, Haddonfield, for two weeks from Monday, January 18, 2021.

It will be unveiled at 11:30am on that day – three years after the tree was taken down.

John Giannotti will be present at the unveiling, along with his assistant Ben Scott and carpenter Mike Gilson. Also, other participants in the Buttonwood Project including woodworkers John Morris, David Leader, Jeff Braddock, and Fred Chase.

Joining them will be representatives of the Haddonfield Cultural Events Commission (sponsor of the project), Haddonfield Foundation (which provided start-up funding), DelVal Turners, Borough of Haddonfield and its Shade Tree Commission, Haddonfield Chapter DAR, Historical Society of Haddonfield, Friends of the Indian King Tavern Museum, and Haddonfield Public Library.

Permission to use the vacant storefront, soon to be occupied by William Heritage Winery, was granted by Jack Leonard and Scott Leonard, owners of the Gibbs Tavern building.

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