A railroad district "monument" might have to soon be removed for safety reasons.
The monument is a large silver maple tree between the sidewalk and the road in front of 355 B. St.
The tree, well over 100 years old, is very special to neighbors, said Susan Bartholomew, the resident who lives on the property.
In the three years she's lived in the house, she's seen countless people walking past the tree hug it, talk to it, meditate beside it and even lean against its trunk to read. She said several people have stopped by to tell her the tree is magical.
“It’s sort of a monument in our neighborhood, and I’m trying to figure out what can be done to save it,” Bartholomew said. “I’m a little worried that it might fall on someone.”
She said she’d just woken up last winter after a snowfall when she heard a loud crash. When she looked out her window, she found that one of the tree branches had fallen and shattered the passenger side window of her car.
“I thought to myself, ‘It’s too early, I need a cup of coffee before I can deal with this,’” Bartholomew said. She said one cup of coffee and 20 minutes later, a second branch fell and broke the window on the driver’s side.
She said it’s dropped several other branches and appears to be dead and hollow.
She said if the tree must come down, she hopes the trunk can remain as a sort of monument marker.
“The trunk is maybe 5 feet in diameter,” Bartholomew said. “It’s really an amazing tree.”
She said she’s waiting to call an arborist until spring because she’s afraid the arborist will condemn the tree.
“Because the tree is such a special part of this neighborhood, I was hoping to do something to honor the tree — quite apart from whether it can ultimately be saved,” Bartholomew said. “People are really attached to the tree.”
She suggests people say their goodbyes to the tree in case it does have to come down. She said she’s afraid the neighborhood will be angry with her for taking it down, but she’s concerned about safety.
“Across the street from me someone took a tree down, and the neighbors were up in arms trying to petition,” she said.
City Senior Planner Derek Severson said the normal process is for the occupant to fill out a tree removal permit and have an arborist assess the tree. If the tree is deemed dead and a hazard, generally the stump would be ground out of the ground and a new tree would replace it.
He said occasionally the city will place a sign on the tree so neighbors know it’s soon to be removed, and that can help diffuse neighborhood tension.
Bartholomew said she suspects the tree is as old as the house.
“The house is listed in one archive as having been built in 1899,” Bartholomew said. “In the land records it says 1905.”