Many years ago, a North American tree uncommon to the Four Lakes area was deliberately planted not far from Lake Monona. One could imagine that a Ho Chunk man, impressed with the incredible bow-making properties of the wood, took great care to plant and nurture the tree that grew among the sacred mounds of the ancient ones.

Most likely, the tree’s beginnings hark back to a time in Madison’s history when the area where the tree grew was known as the Greenbush, where an enclave of Italian immigrants made their home. Maybe an Italian gardener with a delight for the odd and curious trees of America planted the Osage Orange next to his house.

Time passed and the Italian community added much to the prosperity and culture of Madison. The powers-that-be decided to "renew" the neighborhood and the close-knit Greenbush community was razed. Amazingly, the tree was spared.

Eventually, a new community was created. The Bayview Community Foundation was created to provide housing, human services, arts appreciation, and cultural awareness programming for moderate to low-income people.

Bayview executive director David Haas relates that when the community center and townhouses were built, special precautions were taken to protect the tree.

The Osage Orange even received the designation of a “Wisconsin Champion Tree”. In the book Wisconsin’s Champion Trees, A Tree Hunter’s Guide by R. Bruce Allison, Bayview’s Osage Orange is listed as the state’s second largest. In 1971, F. Hasseklus nominated the tree for inclusion and the circumference measured at that time was 4’ 3”.

The tree, which had possibly witnessed the indigenous Ho Chunk people, and certainly lived among Madison’s Italian immigrants, continued to grow among people from around the world.

For the past twenty odd years, Chinese, Colombian, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Nigerian, Hmong, Laotian, and Vietnamese families have all walked under it’s thorny branches.

In some ways, their lives are similar to the Osage Orange tree because they too are here deliberately , be it to escape from war, poverty, or to start a new life. Like the tree, they have been transplanted in a territory far away from their native lands.

This sculpture honors the many who have stood in the tree’s shadow; my people, the Ho Chunk, the Italians, the African Americans, the Latin Americans, and those from Southeast Asia.

This sculpture honors the many who have stood in the tree’s shadow; my people, the Ho Chunk, the Italians, the African Americans, the Latin Americans, and those from Southeast Asia.

By means of animals symbolic to these many peoples, the goal of the sculpture is to convey respect for each culture's endurance and strength-just as the wood of the tree is revered for it’s strength.

Adapted from Bayview's Executive Director's David Haas letter of support
to the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission

Our community, as well as Madison, recently lost the historic Osage Orange tree. To commemorate this tree for the time that it stood in the Greenbush area, Harry Whitehorse was asked to design a wooden sculpture from the trunk of this tree that represents the Bayview Community. Mr. Whitehorse took this idea and created an elaborate sketch of his plans for the Osage Orange. His sculpture will include elements depicting all cultures of Bayview and the Madison area, representing the lives that have walked under the leaves of the tree.

We at Bayview are thrilled to have this unique opportunity to share this rare tree and the proposed sculpture with Madison and the children of the Bayview Community Center. Within the Bayview Community Center, unique programs will take place. One component of Nancy Giffey's Arts For Understanding project will take on the environmental and artistic understanding of the sculpture and Youth Solutions will create performance art expressing the feelings and reactions they perceive from the sculpture.

This sculpture will serve as a lasting memorial, preserving the Greenbush area's history and culture. This sculpture is made not only for preservation, but to teach and inspire both the Madison and Bayview community.

David Haas
Executive Director
Bayview Foundation, Inc

Project Summary

The Bayview Foundation, Inc. sculpture project brings together the remembrance of an extremely rare tree and the ability of renowned sculptor Harry Whitehorse. Recently, a treasure of Madison died. The Bayview Community lost its Osage Orange tree, native to the Red River Valley of the southern United States. This tree was brought ot Madison many years ago and was purposely left in place when the Bayview Community was created in the early 1970s. With the help of Harry Whitehorse, Bayview will be able to keep this rare tree alive through art. Using the distinctly heavy, durable, and rot resistant wood of the Osage Orange, the trunk will be used to form Harry Whitehorse's vision. His vision was influenced by the surroundings of the tree. During the tree's lifetime, people of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds have enjoyed its shake and beauty starting with Italian immigrants, followed by the multi-cultural Bayview Community. Therefore, Harry Whitehorse is proposing a multi-cultural piece of artwork to be made from this rare wood, depicting all the cultures that have walked under it's beautiful leaves and branches.