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The Pub at St. Mary’s College – Welcome home, tulip poplar tree!

Tulip poplars are native trees to our area.  Here's a picture of our pub's bar wood, back when it was still a tree!

Shortly after the new millennium dawned, a stately tulip poplar that graced the front entrance drive of Calvert Hall was struck by lightning. Large branches came down in the storm, and the administration and grounds department began a 'death watch' of sorts, knowing that the day would soon come when the large tree would have to be cut down and removed from its prominent spot. No one had been hurt in the storm which produced the initial strike and limb loss, but it was apparent that, in time, the tree's compromised health could result in injuries. So, in the spring or summer of 2006, according to chief college planner Dan Branigan, the decision was made to go forward with its removal.

Mike Smith, a local woodworker and the spouse of St. Mary's biology faculty member Elaine Szymkowiak, was brought in to salvage what could be saved of the tulip tree's best wood. In milling the tree, it was clear that here would be an opportunity, at some point in time, to showcase the remains of a bygone signature campus tree. The rough lumber was stored with our friends at Historic St. Mary's City, until that time presented.

In nature, tulip poplars are sources of nectar for honey-producing bees.  Now, our tulip poplar is serving our students, every week, with other types of nectar!

That time came this past year, when in creating the campus pub there came a need for a bar top. How about that tulip poplar wood?" became the question, and answer. Once again, Mike Smith was brought in to fashion what was needed out of the raw material that had been in storage for some time

Today, whenever patrons at the pub pick up their sodas, nachos, burritos or beers, they lean an elbow on the best stretch of the tulip poplar we had. The honey-gold glow it gives to the room is particularly impressive, as it warms the space and makes a case for friendly conversation. And that was the goal; to make something useful out of a piece of our past, to give new life to a tree that had beautified St. Mary's College for decades.

Tulip poplar wood can be reddish, greenish, or in our case, yellowish in color when used in woodworking projects.

Trees are renewable resources, capable of serving many purposes both in life and after. They sprout, they grow, they live and give homes to squirrels and birds, and a place for us to stop, relax and appreciate nature’s beauty. And after, with care, they can become useful items of service and continuing beauty. In this case, one special St. Mary’s College tree has given us a whole new way to enjoy its character and luster. What a perfect circle of life and reuse.

Stop by and see our tulip poplar in its new life, and home.