A new arbor for the arboretum

By Cate Huisman
Reader Contributor

When members of the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society asked local builder Collin Beggs if he would build something to replace an aging arbor at the Lakeview Park arboretum, he willingly agreed.

The newly built arbor at the Lakeview Park arboretum. Photo by Cate Huisman.

Beggs builds handcrafted timber-framed buildings. This involves both designing buildings around the wood he can find, and always being on the lookout for unique pieces that will make a good building. 

“We don’t cut synthetic curves,” he said. Instead, Beggs finds trees that have grown the curves that meet the needs of the building.

While straight timbers are necessary for uprights and rafters — and trees inherently provide many of those — he searches also for curving pieces to support them. 

For the new arbor, Beggs used uprights and rafters of white oak left from another project. This wood is particularly well suited for an arbor because of its weather resistance. For the braces, he used the curving branches of a walnut tree.

“Our entire craft is based around trees,” he said.

Beggs estimated that he and his crew — which includes Dave Brown, Dave deLeeuw, Brandon Mimbs and Mike Austin — put in 80 to 100 hours of shop work to get ready to erect the arbor, which went up Jan. 31. The timbers were prepared and the fastenings tried out, the triangular rafters put together and the walnut braces sawed to fit. A variety of forms of traditional joinery hold the arbor together; the pegs that are typical of timber-framed structures are everywhere evident in this one.

In contrast to the long preparation time, once all the craftsmen, materials and equipment were on site, the arbor went up in a morning. The actual day of construction was determined by the availability of a forklift to hoist the rafters into place, making last Friday, Jan. 31 — with its unrelenting deluge of hypothermia-inducing rain on snow — the day that everything came together. 

Beggs and his crew arrived by 8:30 in the morning and were finished by noon, when one hopes they were able to retreat to someplace warmer and drier.

Their willingness to work in the weather was not surprising. According to Beggs, “Timber framing signifies a commitment to the place.” 

The arbor, which Beggs’ company built entirely as a donation, represents a commitment both to his craft and adopted hometown of Sandpoint.

Like all timber-framed structures, it is unique. But the dark heartwood of the walnut exposed in the arbor is particularly appealing. The arbor itself inspires an appreciation for trees, making it a uniquely fitting addition to the arboretum.

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