Shoe Tree remains a sensation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Locals make row of trees a Lyndonville landmark

Photos by Tom Rivers – There are hundreds of shoes either nailed into the bark or dangling from the branches of four ash trees at the corner of Foss and Lakeshore roads in the town of Yates.

YATES I had to drop by the Shoe Tree last night. I think it’s one of the most charming attractions in Orleans County.

A row of four ash trees at the corner of Foss and Lakeshore roads is full of hundreds of shoes. Locals have been keeping the trees stocked for years. The footwear is nailed to the bark on the trunks of the trees. Sneakers hang from branches, some on the ends of limbs high in the air. (The shoe donors have great arms to reach these spots.)

The Shoe Tree is one of the county’s most talked about attractions. It is featured on Web sites and was included in a 2008 book called “New York Curiosities.”

For nearly three decades folks have been flinging loafers, cleats, high heels, slippers, running shoes and boots into the trees. There were five of the trees, but one toppled over in a wind storm in 2009.

The Shoe Tree craze started in 1986 when the late Earl Baun helped a girlfriend get rid of about eight to 10 pairs of shoes. He threw them into the trees. When he was done, Baun and his then-girlfriend, Diane Bane, coaxed other friends to add to the collection. The Shoe Tree was thus born. (I did an article about this for The Daily News of Batavia in 2009.)

A local conservation officer wasn’t happy to see the tree become a depository for so many shoes back then. But Baun’s exploits became contagious.