November 13, 2012

City's proud old oak succumbs to Sandy

When the first piece fell, the 'crack ... sounded like thunder,' said a neighbor.

The Associated Press

SHELTON, Conn. - For hundreds of years, the mighty white oak at the corner of East Village and Longfellow roads stood tall. It was, by far, the oldest tree in the city.

click image to enlarge

The Associated Press A crew from AT&T repairs lines near the remains of a 400-year-old oak tree in Shelton, Conn., which was toppled by wind gusts during Hurricane Sandy.

The Associated Press

That was until a gust of wind during Hurricane Sandy took off the top branch, which fell onto utility wires, cutting power to the neighborhood. A second wind gust took off the entire top of the 85-foot-tall tree.

Longtime residents are saddened by the loss.

"Well, we figured it was at least 400 years old, which would put its beginnings at the time of the Pilgrims," said Philip Jones, 94, of Jones Family Farms. "It was probably on an Indian path," he said.

Jones and Lin Mulford, who said she and her family lived under the shade of the old oak tree for 40 years, recently visited the site in the city's White Hills section.

"It was a little hollowed out," said Jones.

Mulford agreed. "You wouldn't know that from looking at it," she said. "There was no indication from the outward appearance."

But, she said, considering its age and some of the "traumas" the tree had gone through in recent years, it didn't come as a surprise.

"Back in the '70s construction crews, working on the new houses in the neighborhood, took a limb off the tree and were planning to take it down," she said. That's when they discovered the historic nature of the tree and it was spared.

She said underground digging related to the new construction might also have compromised the integrity of the tree's roots.

John Miller, 31, who lives across the street from the tree, said he heard a loud "crack" when the first piece fell. "It sounded like thunder," he said.

When he went outside he found the top tree branch had fallen, and about 20 minutes later, another large gust took off the entire top of the tree. Later, Miller and others watched as United Illuminating crews worked to free tree limbs and branches from downed power lines.

Seeing the pile of debris was a shock to Mulford. "That tree was a source of comfort and beauty," she said.

"It was part of the family lore," she said, adding that she found out about the tree's demise from her son, who sent her a Facebook posting.

"It's sad to see it come down," she said. "There should be some kind of tribute for it."


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