May 12, 2016

The Great Elm Chair

Tree Design

Last week I wrote about some of the historical significance of Boston Great Elm. This week I'll share how you can see and touch a piece of American history, even though the tree fell 139 years ago.

After the tree fell, William W. Greenough had the foresight to do something so people would always remember the tree. He took some parts of the trend made it into a chair. He donated the chair to the Boston Public Library.

The chair ended up in the library because Mr. Greenough was the President of the Board of Trustees of the Boston Public Library. He was a Boston Merchant and Politician.

Boston Public Library - Rare Book Room

Note: The chair is located in the "Special Collections Reading Room" in the Boston Public Library. All visitors to the "Special Collections Reading Room" will need a library card and a photo id to go in. There are some other minor restrictions - no bags or notebooks are allowed in the room. You are allowed to bring in your camera.

The Great Elm Chair is located in the rare book department of the Boston Public Library main branch. This department has the responsibility to preserve all the Boston Public Library rare artifacts. There are lots of very important documents in this department, including William W. Greenough writings, and Koussevitzky works and his desk.

The Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts is located on the third floor of the Research Library. To get to the Rare Book Department, enter the library from Copley Square and go up the grand staircase. Once your on the second floor walk over to the Boylston Room, and on your right you'll see another set of stairs going to the third floor. (Look for signs for the Wiggin or Sargent Gallery) Once on the 3rd Floor, walk through the Wiggin Gallery Door, Through the Music CDs collection and continue walking by the Arts collection.

If you feel lost, simply ask for directions to the Rare Book Special Collection room. Someone will help you get there.

There are two rooms in the Rare Book Department, Special Collections, and Special Collections Reading Room. The Special Collections Reading Room is a limited access room, to get in the room, you need to talk to the person at the desk in the Special Collections. Tell them you are interested in seeing the "Great Elm Chair."

While in the Special Collections room, if you look through the glass doors you may see the Great Elm Chair against the wall. The chair is on wheels and the librarians may move it anytime.

The Great Elm Chair

The Great Elm Chair looks like any fancy wood chair. This particular chair stands out because there is an engraved picture of the Great Elm on the backrest of the chair. Once you see the chair, you have no doubt to what it is.

This is a picture of the chair in the Special Collections Reading Room:

Boston Elm ChairClick on image for a larger version.

On the back of the chair there is an engraving plate. The etching has started to fade and it's hard to make out it out. I asked for special permission to use flash on my camera to see if it would help and with some Pixelmator help, I was able to read what it says:

Chair Plate
Click on image for a larger version.

This Chair,
made from a branch of the
GREAT ELM ON BOSTON COMMON
which fell in the gale of February 15, 1876,
was given to the Boston Public Library, July 13, 1878,
by WILLIAM W. GREENOUGH.

What's really interesting about this plate is that the words, "Boston Public Library" are in a completely different font style than the rest of the text. Not sure why that would be the case.

Additional Notes

Useless Factoid: The chair is now sitting 1.272 km west of its original location.

The Rare Book Department is only open Monday - Thursday 9 to 5. You can only access the chair when the department is open.

I didn't think about checking to see if there's any special under the seat. If you're going to check out the chair, look under the chair to see if there's anything special under it. Could be a National Treasure Clue or something.

Let me know if you do check out the chair or if this post inspired you to discover a part of Boston that most people wouldn't have known about.

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