Letter to the editor that appeared in the "Patriot Ledger" and the "Quincy Sun":
We write with great concern for the survival of the American Elm tree that has stood next to the Winfield House on Hancock Street in Wollaston for over 100 years. The Winfield House was razed in 1998, but the then-owners, Eastern Nazarene College, wisely left the ancient tree standing. Members of the Wollaston Garden Club’s Conservation Committee, who have been involved in local Arbor Day projects, have been researching “Century Tree” programs in other cities. Sometimes these trees that have stood for decades have been called “Witness Trees” because they have “witnessed” events, trends, and people in the history of a community. In many communities the Winfield elm would be considered an important community resource and a “heritage” tree, because of certain unique characteristics: its size/diameter is significant; its species is rare in Quincy, since most of the other American elms of its time were diseased and destroyed during the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s; its age is at least 100 years old, making it among a small group of “century” trees counted in our city; its well recognized for its location, as a landmark in the Wollaston neighborhood; and it serves significant ecological and aesthetic value to an area and a side of a street, not particularly “green” or visually appealing. Recognizing the elm’s significance and importance in our state’s history and culture, in 1941 the General Court of Massachusetts designated the Elm tree (Ulmus American) as the state tree of Massachusetts.
The City of Quincy has decided to raze this tree to make way for a parking lot for the new Central Middle School. Both the city and the architect’s arborists have declared that the tree is in “decline” - an interesting term most of us senior citizens could relate to. One would have to expect that most century-old trees are in decline. Again it appears that an environmental resource is being destroyed in the interest of “development”; instead of seriously considering ways to incorporate this environmental treasure into the new school grounds. If it were allowed to survive, you can just imagine the lessons in science and social studies that this heritage tree could bring to the Central Middle School students and their teachers.
There has been fairly little vocal opposition to the razing of the tree. We are not sure most citizens, even its Wollaston neighbors, have really understood that the old elm tree’s days are numbered. The garden club was contacted about the tree and asked to lend a voice in favor of its survival – we had to respond. We have posted a fact sheet on our web site with information we’ve collected. This landmark, witness, heritage, century tree has survived storms, elm disease, and hurricanes for over 100 years, but will it survive “development” in the City of Quincy. We believe the real support for the tree has to come from the Central Middle School community – the students, teachers, families, and friends. Please contact members of the Quincy School Committee, the City Council, and the Mayor’s Office and ask them to save the Winfield Elm.
Pat Artis, President of Wollaston Garden Club
Elaine McGrail, Conservation Committee member of the Wollaston Garden Club