John Dwyer, Totem Pole

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  • Location:

    North Plainfield, New Jersey, USA (Map)

  • Status:

    Non Extant

  • Artist:
  • Built:

    begun 1985

  • Materials:

    driftwood, oak tree, paint

About the Artist/Site

In 1985, after a 40-foot-high oak tree died in his North Plainfield, New Jersey, backyard, retired United States Air Force Major John J. Dwyer decided to transform it into a totem pole. Although he was born in Leonia, New Jersey, the former weapons designer had seen totem poles while stationed in Alaska during World War II. But unlike traditional carvers, who fell softwood trees and then raise up the carved pole, Dwyer decided to shape a hardwood tree still connected by its roots. He had never carved before.

Using a gas-powered chainsaw and hand-built scaffolding, he worked is way up the pole, making each figure about six feet high. He rigged wings made out of carved driftwood to the pole and painted everything with leftover house paint. Soon Dwyer’s neighbors regarded the Forest Brook Drive totem pole as a landmark: The mayor asked to be photographed in front of it and Cub Scout dens visited regularly.

The Dwyer family moved from the area in the late 1990s. As of 2011, the totem pole, which was just visible from the road, is no longer in evidence.

~Holly Metz

SPACES Archives Holdings

1 folder: images

Map and site information

Not Exact Address
North Plainfield, New Jersey, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 40.630261 / -74.427317


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