A memorial marks the spot where these stately neighborhood trees stood for decades.
CARRYING A CAMERA during the summer of 2006, I started my daily Wallingford Walks, two- to three-hour treks through the neighborhood from our front door on Eastern Avenue. I also carried with me tested intentions and temptations to lose some weight while walking within intimate odoriferous range of Dick’s Drive-In on Northeast 45th Street. After four years of walking in the increasingly familiar circle I’d chosen, I lost only a few pounds but gained hundreds of thousands of digital snapshots. With studied care, I repeated — over and over — about 300 of my subjects, animating them through four years, 2006 to 2010, of their four seasons.
Today, we share two of our Wallingford Walks subjects: landmark English elm trees recently lost to the voracious Dutch elm disease that reached North America aboard a timber-hauling steamer in the 1920s (named “Dutch” for the nationality of the scientist who first described it). The beetles that spread the disease apparently arrived in Seattle by wing from the east shore of Lake Washington — they can fly more than 15 miles. The root-hungry cousins that consumed Seattle’s elms came, it seems, from Clyde Hill.
The elms were long prized far and wide for their service as street trees. Tall and tough, if given care in resisting the beetles, elm trees can endure.
We used several aerial photo surveys in figuring the approximate age of these two at their demise two years ago. The earliest Seattle aerial from 1929 shows no trees on this parking strip. Six years later, they appear, but then surprisingly disappear sometime between the 1946 and 1952 aerials. Not knowing the age of these two when first planted, we must accept the early 1950s.
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Neighbor Philip Wells said the hard-to-calculate exposed rings in the felled trunk reach into the 70s. Wells notes that we do not know how long they were cared for in a nursery. For comparison, it is estimated by expert arborists that of the 15,000 elms standing in England’s Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, several are more than 400 years old.
A memorial was made with a slab cut from the trunk of one of the two elms. It rests on the parking strip with a print attached of the tree streaked by the blizzard of Jan. 4, 2009.