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A 230-year-old tree comes down in Towson’s Anneslie neighborhood

A black walnut tree believed to be 230 years old that stood at the home of George and Helen Kennedy had to come down.
A black walnut tree believed to be 230 years old that stood at the home of George and Helen Kennedy had to come down. (Harry Connolly)

In countless walks around Anneslie, we’d pass by a very interesting and impressive tree. Yes, there are lots of trees, but this one was special. The immense black walnut tree at the corner of Anneslie Road and Holly Lane was believed to be 230 years old.

On March 13, a neighborhood bid farewell to that big, beautiful tree at the home of George and Helen Kennedy. Photographer Harry Connolly snapped some pictures of the process and shared them on social media, along with a tree obituary of sorts. So many neighbors replied to say how they’d admired that tree for years, and lamenting the end of an era.

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“This tree got its start about seven years after the Revolutionary War. The Civil War was 70 years in the future, followed by other wars, adventures and misadventures, and now two pandemics,” Connolly said. “The tree saw a house go up alongside it, and a community around it. It survived tropical storms and hurricanes, droughts and blizzards, kids trying to climb it and swings wrapped around its branches.” The tree withstood TWO lightning strikes during the Kennedys’ time in the house.

“During one storm, a limb came down and took out a small fence," George Kennedy said. "This was the only time we knew the tree to lose a large branch.” They gave great attention to the care of the tree, and maintained faith in its resilience (and also in the strength of cables which reinforced six limbs to secure the weight with equal tension).

“It was wonderful to have such amazing shade in the summer, and the beauty during a snow storm, or in the spring,” Kennedy said. But the fall was a super-sized chore. George Kennedy often spent weeks cleaning up leaves and walnuts (his record count was 123 bags). And those dropping walnuts can hurt!

“Bike helmets were worn in the fall when our kids were young,” he recalled. “When I last traded in a car, the dealer asked if I’d been in a hailstorm from the numerous dents on the roof and hood!”

The tree began losing some bark in 2015, and age was catching up with it in recent years. The difficult decision was ultimately made to say goodbye. The crane operator who removed the tree with remarkable precision said that when he lifted the trunk off its base, it weighed 13,000 pounds but would have weighed twice that if not for the decay that had begun taking over the center. Even though it was time, it was hard to watch it go.

“Because we lived under the tree, we never really got to see it from the same perspective as our neighbors," Kennedy said. "Really never saw its massive structure until we would come back from walks, etc. The neighbors had the best view. They loved it.”

Forever in the Kennedy family memories, part of the tree also will find new life inside their home. They saved some of the wood to dry and have a woodworker create a piece of furniture. Thus, the tree keeps on giving.

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