McMartin & Beggins Furniture Makers, 2004
White oak (Wye Oak)
MSA SC 1545-3268
This desk is made from the wood from Maryland’s celebrated Wye Oak tree, which fell during a thunderstorm on June 6, 2002. When the Wye Oak fell , it was mourned throughout Maryland and the nation. It had stood for some 460 years on the Eastern Shore, witness to all of Maryland’s colonial and post-colonial history. The tree was owned by a succession of private owners over the centuries and was purchased by the state in 1939. In 1941, the white oak was declared the Maryland State Tree, and the Wye Oak was long recognized as the largest white oak in the United States.
As part of the process of preserving the remains of the tree, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of General Services worked together to make sure that the wood was secured and thoroughly inventoried, including tagging and numbering each piece. Among the many suggestions made for how the wood should be used, one of the most frequently mentioned was that a significant piece of furniture should be created for the State House, including a legacy desk for all of Maryland’s governors.
In the spring of 2003, two cabinetmakers from Saint Michaels, Jim McMartin and Jim Beggins were selected to design and construct the desk. After drying for a year, construction of the desk began in 2004, designed in a classic pedestal style and using traditional joinery techniques, including hand-cut dovetails and mortise-and-tenon joints. Finishing details include inset sheepskin leather writing surfaces, embossed with the Great Seal of Maryland, and a pull-out writing surface featuring the obverse of the Great Seal.