Washington's Tree Completely Dead
On my way to the foto exhibit at WBGO two weeks ago, I took a few minutes to check out whether Washington's Tree in Military Park was showing any signs of life. It is located very near the Broad Street side of the park, and I took a foto of the trees near it as I approached along the sidewalk. Spring was sufficiently far along that if there were any life left in that sycamore, there should be greenery showing.
Alas, when I got right up to the tree, I saw no sign of life whatsoever. Sad. But all living things die. This one lasted from at least the late 18th century, and may have been over 300 years old at its demise. It is called "Washington's Tree" because the Continental Army passed by it on their retreat from NYC in November 1776.
Newark valued great trees early on, which contributed to its appeal. According to a Star-Ledger article from February 22, (Washington's Birthday) 2000:
[I]n 1798, Thomas Twining, a British citizen associated with the colonization of India, wrote that Newark was one of the "neatest and prettiest towns I had ever seen. I told my companion that if I settled in America, I should be induced to prefer that spot to any I had seen."By August 2006, prospects for the tree seemed grim. In 2008, I fotograffed some live shoots. Then, last September, the side I saw from my car looked dead, but I wasn't sure about the other side. This is that other side.
The question now is what is to be done with the enormous stump, perhaps 35 feet tall and 5 feet thick? Last September, I offered these thoughts, which are more urgent now that the tree is definitely completely dead, because some people will want to cut it down, lest it rot at its base and fall over onto somebody.
It seems a shame not to make something with the wood. Newark used to have a furniture industry. Do we have even artisan furnituremakers now? How many chairs, writing desks, or armoires might we make from such a trunk? If Newark had a tourist industry, we could make historical plaques about the Tree from the tree, and use them as fundraisers for Newark parks or school history programs, or the New Jersey Historical Society, which is headquartered not far from the stump.There are tree-planting programs under the auspices of the Newark Renaissance Trees Program later this month that I might like to participate in, on May 15th and 22nd, which are both Saturdays.
The City should hold a contest for suggestions as to what to do with the wood from this tall stump. We should act on more than one suggestion if there's wood enuf.