Two Harbors 'Honking Tree' to live again as sculpture

The 'honking tree'
This towering white pine along Hwy 61 near Two Harbors was spared from destruction during rebuilding of Highway 61 in the 1960s. It became known as the "honking tree" because Two Harbors residents started sounding their car horns when passing by the tree to alert neighbors they had returned safely from Duluth.
Photo by Paul Walvatne, courtesy of MnDOT

Vandals may have cut down the "honking tree" in Two Harbors, but residents will be able to forever cherish the landmark after a chainsaw artist sculpts its trunk into a replica of the northern Minnesota town's lighthouse.

Two Harbors Mayor Randy Bolen said it's a fitting memorial for people who were saddened by the absence of the large pine tree on Highway 61, where motorists would toot their horns as they drove by.

Someone chopped down the tree in April, and many in the town had looked for ways to memorialize it. A spaghetti dinner was held to raise money to restore it, and city officials discussed other possibilities.

"We wanted to do something that was fitting for our area, and this seemed to be the right thing to do with it," Bolen said of the sculpture.

The lighthouse statue, which has yet to be made, will be on public display on Seventh Avenue. There will also be a sign describing its history.

But even with a public memorial, Bolen said many residents wanted a piece of the tree to take home as a memory. So about two weeks ago, the city started selling "honking tree" medallions made out of the tree's branches.

The circular medallions, which cost $5, are stamped with a picture of the "honking tree" along with the years it stood alive in Minnesota: 1879-2009.

Honking tree medallion
Circular medallions, which cost $5, are stamped with a picture of the "honking tree" along with the years it stood alive in Minnesota: 1879-2009. The honking tree, a Two Harbors landmark, was cut down by vandals in April. Its name comes from the tradition of honking one's car horn when driving by the tree.
Handout photo

"Some people are using them for coasters in their homes or cabins," Bolen said.

Both the medallions and sculpture are being made at no cost to the city, and the money raised from the medallions will go to support some sort of civic cause such as planting more trees, Bolen said.

To memorialize the tree, city officials had to strike the right balance between people in the town who couldn't have cared less about the tree and others who were extremely passionate about it, Bolen said.

"I think people would be more upset if we didn't do anything with it and just let it rot," he said.

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