At the end of March, the Old Manse bid farewell to a beloved sugar maple currently situated in the turnaround of the Old Manse. Sadly, the tree has reached the end of its life despite numerous mitigation efforts over the past few years. If not removed the tree will pose a risk to the historic house and our visitors. Therefore, the Trustees in consultation with expert arborists have decided the best course of action is to remove the tree for the safety of visitors and as part of the Organization’s continued work to care for this historic place and its living collections.
History of the tree and location in the cultural landscape
At the time that Hawthorne arrived at the Manse on his wedding day July 9th, 1842 he would have walked down an avenue of ash trees culminating in a turnaround anchored visually by a mature elm tree. In the years that followed, the trees were replaced with both elms and maples as described by Arthur Gilman in 1874 stating “The Old Manse… is approached by an avenue of noble trees, which were originally black ash, a tree very rare in this part of New England. Many of these ash trees have died from age, and their places have been supplied by elms and maples.” The maple that stands in the turnaround today, planted 50 years ago, recalls the maples that grew at the Manse during the late 19th century.
Over the years, the sugar maple was an iconic part of the landscape as it is a place where children played, visitors took photographs, and was even tapped for sap to make maple syrup. As the tree grew older, it became more susceptible to disease. In 2020, it was diagnosed with Verticillium Wilt, a fungal disease that led to loss of leaves and poor health and more susceptible to further diseases and ailments. The tree has since been cabled, received annual treatments of organic micronutrients, aeration treatments, and limb removal to prolong its life. However, the tree has reached a point where it is severely stressed and is beyond recovery. This is part of our continuing work that began with the restoration of the cultural landscape to retain as much of the original fabric of the landscape as possible and respond to the challenges of a changing climate. The removal of the maple is an act of conservation in our continuing work to steward this special place and create a beautiful and safe environment for our visitors.
We are replacing the maple with an elm tree to bring the landscape closer to that enjoyed by Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. The variety was selected due to its beautiful habit, its quick growth rate, and its resilience and ability to withstand a changing climate. Additionally, an elm in that location is more accurate to what the landscape would have been earlier in the 19th century at the time of Emerson and Hawthorne, before it was replaced with a maples. This cultivar of a native species is more resistant to Dutch Elm’s Disease while providing ecological benefit to birds and insects.
Why is the tree being removed? The tree has reached the end of its life and will pose a risk to the Manse and its visitors.
Will it be replaced? Yes, with a young cultivar of elm tree.
Why did you choose elm? The elm is more historically accurate to the time that Emerson and Hawthorne inhabited the house. It is native to New England and has a high canopy that will not obstruct a view of the house.
Why can’t you plant a large tree? Mature trees take longer to establish and can often be traumatized by being moved. Young trees handle transplanting much better, will become more established, and live longer, healthier lives. Elm trees are fast growing and so a young tree will not stay small for long and will quickly become a large and mature tree that will be a focal point of the landscape for years to come.
What will be done with the tree that is cut down? The tree will be removed, and a portion of salvageable wood will be milled for later use in projects at the Old Manse, or for keepsake opportunities to remember and celebrate the legacy of the tree.
What work have you done to care for the tree? The tree has been cabled, received annual treatments of organic micronutrients, aeration treatments, and limb removal to prolong its life.