This issue we focus on Historic Trees. As many of you already know, these behemoths elicit strong protective emotions within local communities (with the exception, perhaps, of traffic engineers). Historic trees serve as a touch point with the past and as a reminder that events occurred before our birth. They are typically large and beautiful, but they also present a variety of management and liability issues.
You may have recently heard or read that on the evening of August 7, 2008, a strong storm severely damaged a 200-year old honey locust tree at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This locust is one of four remaining “Witness Trees” that survived the horrific battle and then “witnessed” Lincoln’s famous address. According to news reports, about 80 percent of the tree was lost, but it still clings to life. It reminded me of another storm event that struck Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee home:
“On April 16, 1998, a tornado swept across the Hermitage grounds uprooting or damaging nearly twelve hundred trees. The Jackson tomb escaped damage, but the trees surrounding it were devastated. The Ladies Hermitage Association (LHA) began researching and replanting the trees around the Jackson tomb shortly after the tornado and that work continues today.” See the Hermitage / Jackson's Tomb. Historic trees are relatively rare in my neck of the woods, with most of them confined to the University of Washington (Seattle) Campus as part of WWI-era plantings. The one exception is the Des Moines Memorial Drive, south of Seattle. I’ve included a link for this well-documented and researched cultural corridor management plan, and I encourage everyone to take a look at it.
Currently, there is no specific code for the protection or preservation of historic trees within Seattle city limits. Model codes are available, but have only been adopted in about 45 communities across the United States. I’ve noted a great website for accessing the model code and urge you to take a moment to visit.
Looking ahead, feel free to send me the names of books that may be of interest to the group. If you have cultural landscape reports or other historic preservation projects on your websites, please send me the links. It is important to share this information with our like-minded membership.
Duane Dietz, ASLA, LEED AP
Duane Dietz, ASLA, lives near Seattle, Washington and is currently working towards a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org