Laurel's Big Christmas Tree comes down

Melanie Dzwonchyk

Laurel lost an icon Friday, a tree so loved it had its own Facebook page and was nicknamed "Laurel's Big Christmas Tree," or simply, "The big tree."

A stately white pine that attracted admirers from Laurel and beyond when it lighted the night with 12,000 lights at Christmas time is bound to have a lot of fans.

Richard Kluckhuhn, who owns Laurel Fuel Oil and lives in the house he grew up in, made the decision to take down what was left of the damaged tree, and a crew arrived Aug. 29 to snip off the remaining branches and pull down the tall trunk.

Planted by Kluckhuhn’s father, Robert, in the 1940s in the family’s Montgomery Street front yard, the 65-foot white pine was damaged by a fire set by vandals in June 1996 and again in the back-to-back blizzards in February 2010, when its broad branches couldn’t withstand the weight of the snow and ice.

"Unfortunately, parts of it died, and it was not well enough to be decorated," said  Kluckhuhn. "For the last few years we haven't decorated it, and I figured it's time to take it down and put a new tree up."

In 2010, Kluckhuhn donated some of the lights to the city of Laurel, and they were added to the city’s own holiday tree that is illuminated every December at C and Main streets.

On Friday, Richard Friend, who writes the Lost Laurel blog, created a photo gallery that captured the last of the tree, while neighbors and friends gathered on Montgomery Street to witness the cutting, falling and trucking away.

"It hurts," said Peter Lewnes, who lives nearby. "We've spent a lot of Christmases here, after Christmas dinner and Thanksgiving dinner. To me it was nicer than the National Christmas tree on the mall."

In its final moments in Old Town, Laurel’s Christmas Tree was still attracting a crowd.

 Ulysses Muñoz contributed to this story.

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