Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prospect of Union Street Bikeway Might Remind us of Heritage Trees Lost and Remaining

While the Zelkova trees on State Street at Ladd & Bush Bank get the headlines today, there's another downtown site where an official heritage tree was cut down in 2007, and another venerable tree sits neglected, too often unnoticed, and possibly at risk.

Venerable Honeysuckle at Union and Cottage

In 2007 Heritage Tree Restaurant on Cottage Street between Union and Marion enjoyed a century-old walnut tree. About the tree, the LaFolette Black Walnut (also La Folette), the city wrote:
Situated near the southeast corner of Union and Cottage Streets in Salem, the LaFollette tree is one of largest trees of its kind in Marion County. The Harry Widmers moved into the adjacent residence in 1905 and said the tree was big then. An old man about town named LaFollette told the Widmers he started the big tree about 1880 or earlier as a nut brought by wagon from Nebraska. The tree is fronted by the Heritage Tree Restaurant on Cottage Street.
When the house was moved from Cottage Street to State Street that year (and photos of the move itself here) the tree was cut down.

On the adjacent corner, there's another gnarled old tree.  It's not clear how healthy it is.   Maybe it's just old, maybe it's at the end of its life.

If it is just old, and not diseased, it might be nice for it to get some official love when streetscape changes are made to Union Street. 

Garfield School and former site of Heritage Tree Restaurant in back
According to an April, 2005 story on a heritage tree walk, it's not a tree, but a vine!  One of the guides introduced it:
Well, this is the honeysuckle tree. Both a Marion County and a Salem Heritage tree. Like the description says, normally honeysuckles are just vine-sized. Look at this. It is just amazing how stout that is.

This is Salem's last remaining tree from a program called "Beautify America," a federal program that was existing in the latter part of the 19th century. And again, that's about all that I know about this. It's a remnant from another time.
Verifying the existence of a "beautify America" program has not been easy, and perhaps readers may know more about it. The google turns up Lady Bird Johnson's more recent projects. One possibility is the "city beautiful" movement and associated "garden beautiful" work of people like Francis Benjamin Johnstone.

Certainly this is the right era and cultural orbit, and something vestigial like this honeysuckle could be significant as part of the work of the previous generation in Salem that prepared the way for the work of Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver.  

More surface parking lots across the street
In part because of protecting privacy where heritage trees are on private property, the City's list of heritage trees is largely inaccessible (presumably the two web pages are a sampling, not full list), so it's not clear whether this honeysuckle is actually a City-designated official "heritage tree." 

And if it's not, maybe it should be.

As plans for Union Street are finalized in the downtown mobility study, provisions for protecting and highlighting this tree-vine should be considered!

Addendum, January 13th, 2023 (yes, a full decade later...)

Here is the first time I have seen in City materials any mention of the honeysuckle!

SPRAB minutes, December 2022

The City website doesn't return any list of those 22 trees/groves in the program, unfortunately.

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