“He plants trees to benefit another generation.”
– Caecilius Statius
Spokane is blessed with many beautiful trees. And now, a few of them are about to become, as a group, the first historic heritage trees in the city.
There are three of them – all 100 years old or older – and they are located in Pioneer Park by the Corbin Art Center near Seventh Avenue and Stevens Street. They are an apricot, an American elm and a horse chestnut, and they are simply amazing specimens, according to Lynn Mandyke, Corbin Art Center director, who nominated the trees for special status last spring.
The nominated apricot tree was planted between 1898 and 1907 by Daniel Corbin near his Kirtland Cutter-designed home, built in 1898 at 507 W. Seventh Ave. The house is now the Corbin Art Center. Among other reasons, the tree is special because it is unusually long-lived for its species, because it is so large and normally a somewhat delicate tree to maintain in this climate, according to Steve Nittolo, horticultural supervisor for Spokane Parks and Recreation. And it still produces apricots each year, which visitors collect to eat and to make jam, Mandyke added.
Many high school students who have their senior pictures taken on the Corbin grounds often pose by the apricot tree. “It’s been in a lot of pictures for a lot of years,” Mandyke said.
The horse chestnut and elm are in the Moore-Turner Gardens just to the west within the park grounds. They were part of the landscaping for the Cutter-designed home at 525 W. Seventh Ave. built for F. Rockwood Moore in 1889, though it isn’t certain if they were planted by Moore or by Sen. George Turner, who bought the home in 1896, according to Mandyke.
Dates for those two plantings are estimated between 1890 and 1911.
The horse chestnut is huge, at 52 inches in diameter. It stands proudly on the grassy lawn on the north side of the lane, easily visible to those driving toward the Corbin Art Center. The elm, 44 inches in diameter, is located at the gate to the Moore-Turner Gardens. What is amazing about this specimen, in addition to its natural beauty, is that it survived an infestation of Dutch elm disease, which killed most of the elm trees along Seventh Avenue on the lower South Hill many years ago, Mandyke said.
The devastating ice storm of 1996, which damaged or killed hundreds of trees in the area, left these three trees untouched.
Both the Corbin and Moore-Turner properties, purchased by the city in 1945, are on the national, state and Spokane registers of historic places because of the significance of the homes and the individuals who had them built. Corbin was a mining and railroad magnate who helped shape Spokane’s growth. Moore was influential in organizing the Washington Water Power Company and Spokane’s First National Bank. And Turner, an attorney and state senator, was credited with leading the convention that framed the state constitution.
But history and heritage aren’t just about people and buildings and sites where significant events occurred. They can also be about living things. Earlier this winter, the Park Department’s Urban Forestry Tree Committee and the Park Board approved Mandyke’s application for heritage status for the three trees under provisions of the Urban Forestry Tree Ordinance, Section 12.02.916. It now awaits the mayor’s signature, which Nittolo said he expects will take place this month.
There are other trees going through the process whose historic and heritage value are being championed by individuals in the city. Of course there are criteria and a process for selection, and those interested in heritage status for trees can contact the Urban Forestry Program at (509) 363-5485 for information.
Heritage status doesn’t guarantee that designated trees will never be removed. “But it does give notice that trees of historic significance, trees associated with historic events and people, that these trees are still here,” Nittolo said. “We will create a map of heritage trees so that developers and others know where they are, so that the trees can be considered when looking at construction or street projects.”
“They are important to have,” said Mandyke. “They are good to protect. They are incredible and are part of our story, our history.”