‘End Of An Era’ As Library Tree Felled

by Tim Wood

CHATHAM – With a loud thump, the massive trunk of the old horse chestnut tree on the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library fell to the ground last Wednesday morning.

The iconic tree, thought to be 100 to 150 years old, was chainsawed apart by a crew hired by the town to make way for a new landscaping plan, sidewalk renovations and an accessible pathway. The plan would have required cutting into the tree’s roots, weakening it and making it a safety hazard.

During the process, which took several hours, a number of people stopped by to claim branches or chunks of wood from the tree, including members of the Chatham/Harwich Woodworking Group. The largest portions of the tree's trunk were given to the Chatham Friends of Trees.

What will happen to the wood hasn’t been determined yet, said the Friends of Trees’ Dee Dee Holt. Several woodworkers have volunteered to help make items from the tree; possibilities include a table or perhaps a bench for the library. Horse chestnut wood does not do well outdoors, she added, so a bench would have to be located indoors.

“Now that we see the sizes of the pieces, they can go over and take a look and come up with some creative ways so it doesn’t go to waste,” Holt said. Another option is to perform a dendrochronology study, which measures rings to date a tree. It may be possible to cut a cross section of the tree and create a display, marking significant dates in the town’s history according to the rings.

The tree’s absence creates a stark void on the corner of Main Street and Library Lane, where it’s stood probably since the library itself was built in 1896.

“It’s been on that corner longer than any of us has been alive,” Holt said. At its thickest the tree’s circumference was 110 inches. “Think of the carbon stored in it,” she added.

Library Director Amy Andreasson watched the scene from the front steps of the historic building.

“As sad as it was to lose such an iconic tree,” she said, “we are grateful that it will open the way for the town's upcoming project, which will focus on improving safety and accessibility.”

Select Board member Dean Nicastro also watched as the tree’s branches were systematically cut back so that only the trunk remained. He said he was impressed by the contractor’s skill and the respect of the workers and town DPW staff for those who wanted to have a piece of the tree.

“It was certainly very sad to see it come down,” Nicastro said. “It was a stately and graceful friend to everyone.

The tree gave its life not just for a new landscaping plan but also to improve safety and inclusivity, he added. A nearby Norway maple was also taken down as part of the project, and new trees will be planted in their place.

“It was the end of one era and the beginning of a new one,” Nicastro said.

See video of the library tree coming down at www.capecodchronicle.com.