My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Davis Mercantile Tree

There’s a curious thing to be seen in the Davis Mercantile building in downtown Shipshewana, Indiana.  Running up from the basement to the third floor, with the stairways winding around it, is a huge log, with its bark still in place.  I took this picture from an upper level; that is my husband smiling up from the basement.  But photographs cannot do it justice; it has to be seen in person.

The story of the log is told in a framed document which begins, appropriately and obviously enough, with the words “This is a large log.”  It goes on to say that the log was brought here from British Columbia, Canada, and it comes from a Douglas fir, and it now measures 44 inches in diameter and 56 feet in height.  It was estimated that the tree from which the log came was over 370 years old.  The official Shipshewana website ( adds that the log weighed over 18,000 pounds and that, immediately upon its arrival, the rings were counted to come up with the age of 370+.  The tree came from a place called Kin Basket Lake and in order to cut it down, the top was first attached to a helicopter!  After it was cut, the helicopter lifted it out of the dense woods to the loading area.  That must have been some big helicopter!

The Davis Mercantile building burned to the ground on February 28, 2004 (including the beloved JoJo's Pretzels shop) and was rebuilt later that year, bigger and better than before.  (That is a story for another day.)  When the Mercantile was rebuilt, this log was placed here, and then the staircase was built around it.  The staircase connects the stores on the four levels in grand style.  The wood used to build the stairs came from four different types of native hardwood.


According to the document, the log was brought in on a large semitrailer with a packing slip that said “One Large Log.”  A heavy duty crane then lifted it from the trailer, high above the 50-foot-high new building taking shape, and then lowered it into place in its new home.  The crane had to be counter-balanced with weights equaling the weight of the log; the counterweights were brought to the site on a separate tractor-trailer.

Thirty inches had to be trimmed from its base to make it fit in its new home.  As it was lowered into the building, workmen guided it down into the spot created for it.  Later, the grand staircase was finished all around it.  It is quite the focal point, and it makes the building interesting and unique, and connects its wood interior to the trees from which it was built, in a very special way.

Was all of this effort really necessary?  No.  But I’m glad that someone had the idea to do it. 

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