Friday, November 25, 2011

Better to Apologize than Ask Permission - Kinmount Shoe Trees

Blogging is a strange communicative form. Most of my posts get a handful of views but some like the one I wrote about the Shoetrees of Kinmount have steadily drawn eyes to this blog week after week.

Kinmount Shoetrees circa 2008

I got an email from a reader advising me the shoetrees were destroyed. On the orders of one local town councilman the trees were cut down. There was no public consultation just a man and his opinion and his ability to get the job done. The trees now only exist in photographs and memories. Here is a recent picture of the shoetree site:

Kinmount, where the Shoetrees were, 2011

There, that's better right? Right??

Shoetrees, like authentic farmers' markets, spring from the zeitgeist of the community. They just start and someone else comes along and says whoa and they add their two cents and then the thing becomes a Thing and people love it because it is Real, not commercial, not "planned" but a space people feel is theirs to add to and to participate in. I was one of the tourists who parked on the side of the road to see the shoes. I guess I contributed to the worsening of the asphalt, one of the reasons given for getting rid of the messy eyesore. I never did get to add my fuzzy slippers or my flip flops to the tree.

It seems to me this is a missed opportunity for the local town. They should have sold postcards and t-shirts and had some local artisan create "make your own shoetree" kits instead of just destroying them. When I drove to Florida this spring we came across a site that reminded me of
Kinmount. In South Carolina they celebrate their local version of the shoetree called The Mystery Tree on Edisto Island. The site made it into Roadside America which directs people to areas to see interesting things when they are on a drive aka tourists, tourism, a local economic boost in these difficult economic times.

Edisto Island Mystery Tree
Image found on the

More background info here:

But I suppose the Kinmount trees were an eyesore to those who had to see it all the time. Many people don't like anything messy or disorderly or spontaneous. That's all risky business that. In fact is it downright Troublesome. Better to have peace, calm, flat, empty, open space...nothing to see here folks...move along...

More about the Kinmount shoetrees and their demolition here


jessica said...

This reminds me of when I was 12 years old and a bunch of us city kids built a treehouse in a warehouse area in Cote-des-Neiges area in Montreal. The city, in all it's wisdom, responded by destroying the beautiful old tree. I remember when they came and a crowd of us kids were devastated by the waste of it all. Pathetic that nothing has changed - response as creative and innovative as it ever was.

Anonymous said...

To read about the history of the Kinmount Shoe Trees from their creation to destruction visit

The Urban Oaf said...

OMG! This is on the way to Grammie's house and we look forward to seeing it with our kid's every time we drive through Kinmount. It is one of the highlights of the trip. What a crusty old grouch that councilor is. It will be interesting to see if even more shoes appear as a monument to the fallen trees. I will definitely be bringing some shoes with me next time i pass through. We have countless photo's from different years--the last one taken just in August. Maybe we should post pictures we have taken of the trees on a new tree. The Urban Oaf is very unhappy. I hope I don't see a condo there next time I go by. If I do, I'll definitely nail my shoes to the condo.