Losing a great oak in Minneapolis

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The Seward neighborhood’s great oak tree did not bud this spring.

Located two blocks north of the Franklin Avenue bridge and facing the 900 block of Franklin Terrace, the burr oak is – or was – Minneapolis’s oldest surviving oak tree.

The tree, which once stood at about 60 – 80 feet high, now stands at about 40 feet high with a trunk diameter of 4 – 8 feet, according to the Hennepin History 2006 newsletter. A hollow opening in the tree can accommodate up to two average sized adults. A plaque formerly located on a nearby rock declared it the city’s oldest tree.

Ralph Sievert, director of forestry for Minneapolis Parks, believes that the tree is more than 150 years old.

“People expect trees to live for hundreds of years, but it is unheard of, especially in a city environment,” Sievert said. “For it to last over 150 years is amazing.”

Due to old age, the tree has been declining over the last five to seven years.

“There has been very sparse foliage,” Sievert said.

The tree now has an ‘X’ over its trunk to warn the public that it is hazardous. It slated to come down this month and will be processed into wood chips, Sievert said.

Minneapolis councilmember Cam Gordon has fond memories of the tree. He has been living across the street from it since 1990.

“I remember the kids climbing and playing hide and seek in it,” Gordon said. “I once saw a prayer written in the opening of the tree asking for help in raising someone’s daughter.”

The late Dr. Otto Schussler, a general practitioner, loved nature and shared his memories about the tree in his book “Riverside Reveries” in 1927:

In a very true sense this ancient tree is the monarch of all! What a store of pleasant memories must have found lodgment…and one crosses it feeling that the old tree is a calm and gracious element. We visit him on our after supper strolls nightly, and more and more a fitting appreciation of his splendid bearing and kingly presence grows upon me.