Cliff Hare believes Toomer’s Corner won’t be the same without the iconic oaks.
To preserve the oaks' memory, Hare, the owner of Auburn Art at Toomer’s Corner, is having a replica of one of the oaks created and installed in his store.
“Back in the beginning of the year when we knew the trees were coming down, I came to the realization that there will be a huge generation of kids coming forward who won’t get to experience the trees,” Hare said.
Hare said he looked at companies that specialize in making sculptures of trees and found NatureMaker, a company based in California specializing in the art, design and engineering of handcrafted architectural trees.
Bob Jones, an artist from NatureMaker, began installing the tree in Auburn Art Tuesday. He’s been working with a team on the sculpture for several months.
“First we got everything engineered, and then we made the trees out of steel pipe and steel rods,” Jones said. “Then it all gets covered up with a mesh that we sculpt over, and we put all this fine detail on it.”
Jones said the branches are made of real wood with artificial foliage designed to look the same as the original oaks. The tree’s trunk has a handmade bark-like texture created and painted by Jones. The tree is an exact replica of the one that stood on College Street; it even has the same dent from a car accident that happened at the corner.
Jones spent Tuesday standing the trunk, installing branches and adding foliage, and will complete the installation Wednesday by sculpting and painting the tree’s joints.
“After the first stage of the project was completed and I was assigned to lead the installation of the tree, it hit me that the tree was going to Auburn, Ala.,” Jones said. “I told my friends, and they said, ‘That’s THE tree!’ I was honored and excited to not only visit Auburn, but to be able to work on a project that means so much to so many people.”
Auburn Art was founded in 2001 as an online company and established a retail location in 2007. The store, located next to Toomer’s Drugstore on College Street, offers Auburn University-themed photographs, prints, paintings, blown glass, jewelry and pottery.
Hare said he was happy to provide the Auburn Family with another opportunity to stand beneath the oaks.
“We wanted to do something so future Auburn generations could enjoy one of Auburn’s greatest traditions,” Hare said. “NatureMaker has done a fantastic job of recreating the iconic Toomer’s Oak.”