Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bill Needham- Furniture Builder, Carver, Artist, Woodsman

Dan Nelson, recently wrote to this blog the following;

"With the interest in a museum and the blog as a forum, I was
thinking it would be interesting to put a call out for information about the
classic furniture builders of the trail. As the child of Lee Nelson
Zopff, I am familiar with Billy Needham's diamond willow furniture at
Clearwater Lodge and his great Totem Pole. Some furniture builders
were referred to in the book, A Taste of the Gunflint, also."


Good idea! Does anyone else out there know where any other of Billy's works are located?

Among my recollections of Billy are that he lived in a small cabin on what is now called Needham Road. The cabin was next to the creek and canoe portage from Hungry Jack to West Bearskin
Lakes. I can remember many times stopping to see Billy at his cabin. Usually I would find him busy working on a new wood carving for someone- the floor of his cabin littered with wood shavings. The coffee would appear and we would sit down for a good neighborly conversation about the deer he was feeding, his days working forTommy Banks, the weather or whatever.

Much of Billy's art work still graces many of the cabins and lodges of the mid Gunflint Trail area-you can find his hand drawn map on the walls of most of the cabins on Hungry Jack and at Trail Center. While much of the furniture he built was destroyed when Hungry Jack Lodge burnt down in the 1970's, there still are pieces, in addition to Clearwater Lodge, at the old Swanson Lodge and several cabins on Hungry Jack Lake. His stone work can still be seen at Ilg's and Tommy Bank's cabins on Hungry Jack also.

I am sure there are many other works by Bill around. If anyone know of other works we would certainly be interested in hearing from you.

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