A special thank you to David Wilkinson and Rolf Frankenbach of the Woodland Tree Foundation (www.woodlandtree.org) for the following Landmark Tree historical narratives.
Gibson House Yolo County Historical Museum, 512 Gibson Road
304 Casa Linda Drive
See David Wilkinson's attached essay above, which provides historical background for this tree alongside the Gibson House Valley Oak.
524 Third Street
Historic Context: Plane trees were the rage beginning in the 1920s and were heavily planted throughout Woodland throughout the twentieth century. Commonly called “oriental” planes back in the day, they are actually the “London” plane (Plantanus x acerifolia), a hybrid whose parents are the Oriental plane native to Eurasia (Platanus orientalis) and the American plane (Platanus occidentalis), native to the eastern United States. A California native species of plane tree is also found in Woodland—and grows wild near the Sacramento River-- the Western Sycamore (Plantanus racemosa).
London plane trees rapidly grew in popularity to become one of the most widely planted city trees for two key reasons. A healthy specimen is fast growing and provides spectacular shade, rivaling the American elm. Second, they were affordable and available: in a 1919 ad appearing in the “Democrat” seven foot “oriental” plane trees were selling for $1.00 each or ten trees for $8.50, well within the price range of most Woodland residents.
Prominent Woodland people are associated with the London plane tree. J. Grant Bruton was a WWI veteran who served on the Mexican border. In peacetime Bruton became a Woodland attorney and was elected as a Yolo County Superior Court judge in 1934. In 1928 Bruton and his wife Irma, a librarian, built a charming and romantic French cottage with triple French doors on a wide lot at 415 Bartlett Avenue, a street named for Washington M. Bartlett, a California governor who died in office in 1887. The Brutons wanted shade and plenty of it. Not just for themselves, but for the entire neighborhood. To achieve this leafy lofty vision, they donated enough London plane trees to line both sides of Bartlett Avenue between College and Elm streets. High School students planted the trees under the guidance of agricultural instructor, Luther Du Bois. City Engineer, Asa Proctor, had his staff stake the trees.
The plane tree craze spread up and down Elm Street (as American elms were phased out due to disease concerns) and throughout the mid-twentieth century middle-class neighborhoods east of the Bruton’s house. London planes were widely planted in Beamer Park, which was built out after the Great Depression. London planes are susceptible to the anthracnose fungi that hosts on plane trees, permanently disfiguring the weaker trees which cannot regenerate damaged branches and limbs. We see many disfigured planes in Woodland. However, the huge specimen being nominated for landmark status at 524 Third Street is vigorous, monumental and stands apart from its many of cousins spread throughout Woodland neighborhoods, schools, and parks.
This is a city public tree located in the planting strip. Robert Brigham, who resides at 524 Third Street submitted an attached support letter. This is a magnificent specimen. The tree is Woodland’s most prominent London plane and one of the largest and tallest trees of any species in Woodland. It has a diameter of 58.0 inches and is 107 feet tall. This specimen is unique for its exceptional girth and height and has been a haven for birds as an arboreal beacon in this historic neighborhood for perhaps a century.
Dingle Elementary School, 625 Elm Street
Historic Context (from “Explore Historic Woodland” Guidebook (p.43): “This location has been a school site since a two story wooden school house was built here in 1889 facing Oak Street, nestled under the ancient valley oaks that still grace the campus. In 1914 the community approved a school bond measure that funded a modern two-story brick school in the Renaissance Revival style designed by William H. Weeks, which faced Elm Street where the parking lot is today.
It replaced the Oak Street School. Opening in 1915 it was initially named the Elm Street School, then later changed to the Woodland Grammar School. In 1948 the Annex was constructed and became the main part of the school in 1967 when the brick building no longer met earthquake safety standards and was eventually demolished in 1975. The multi-purpose building was completed in 2004 with funding provided by a local school bond. Charles. E. Dingle was the long-time principal of the school. In 1926 the school was re-named in Dingle’s honor shortly before he passed away. In recognition of the school’s long-time role in educating Woodland children, the site was designated a Woodland Historical Landmark.”
The tree being nominated is the only large oak remaining on the core Dingle campus. There is another large oak on the southern side of the campus. This majestic valley oak is the native tree species that inspired the City of Woodland’s name. The valley oak is the largest of the California oaks and can live for centuries. Today, due to past use for fuel wood, clearing to make room for crops and urban development, most of the once-abundant valley oaks have disappeared from Woodland and the surrounding lowland areas of Yolo County.
This remaining valley oak may have been planted by a California scrub jay perhaps 230 years ago, long before Woodland was established. One of the largest oaks remaining in Woodland, in 2020 it measured 57.2 inches in diameter four and a half feet above the ground and is 77 feet tall.
Beamer Elementary School, 525 Beamer Street
Historic Context (from “Explore Historic Woodland” Guidebook (p. 285): “On September 2, 1930, Beamer Park School welcomed its first class of students, beginning its many decades of service to Woodland’s elementary school children. The Woodland School District hired the San Francisco architectural firm of William H. Weeks to design a school campus in keeping with the “most up-to-date and approved-of designs.” [The 1930 campus] consisted of eight classrooms for grades 3-6, administrative offices and the nurse’s office. In 1940, the 7th and 8th grade wing of classrooms was added, perpendicular to the main building and connected to it by a ramp. A school bond in 1950 provided for a primary school annex and the following year the auditorium/gymnasium was constructed, along with a cafeteria. In the mid-1970s, the original building had aged considerably and due to earthquake safety concerns, it was demolished.
A playground now occupies the space. The current administrative offices and a school library, situated parallel to Beamer Street but set back from the road, were constructed in 1975 Cork Oaks are native to south-western Europe and northwestern Africa, near the Mediterranean Sea. They are named for their bark, which contains the cork used in glass bottle stoppers and many other useful products. In Portugal, the largest source for the world’s cork, the cork can be harvested many times over the life of the tree without damaging the tree. Cork oaks were brought to California as acorns in 1865. During the Second World War, a renewed effort was made to start a successful cork industry here. In California, their acorns provide a food source for birds and wildlife. Cork oaks can reach a large size with long spreading, providing a nice center piece with year-long shade from there evergreen leaves. In Woodland cork oaks can easily grow to 70 feet tall and as wide at maturity. They can live for over 200 years. The cork oak on the Beamer Elementary School campus is a classic spreading specimen which provides a degree of protection and comfort for students. It has a measured diameter of 47.5 inches and a height of 45 feet, evidencing its long history at this historic school.
The designation of historical landmarks within the City of Woodland is intended to protect the designated structure or vegetation from substantial modification or removal unless it becomes a threat to public safety. By designating the trees listed and described above as Landmark Trees, removal or major alteration of the trees, or improvements or modifications under the canopy or within the drip line of the designated trees, will require review and approval by the Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) unless the proposed improvements/modifications will not have a detrimental effect on the trees as determined by the City’s Arborist (or a qualified arborist and reviewed by the City’s Arborist). If a designated tree is found to be a public health or safety hazard as determined by the City’s Arborist, it can be removed without review by the HPC. Routine maintenance of the listed trees by a qualified arborist is exempt from HPC review.
420 Third St.
The iconic American elm (Ulmus americana) located at 420 Third Street is one of the few remaining historical American elms whose upper limbs were not “topped” by the city years ago. This tree is likely a century old and has a 62.1” diameter. It has retained its renowned and iconic spreading canopy. A beloved American tree, noted for its toughness and dappling shade, it was widely planted throughout U.S. cities until Dutch elm disease (DED) destroyed millions of elms beginning in the 1930s.
The few remaining American elms checkering Woodland streets are truly survivors. These trees were widely planted in Woodland in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century and valued for their tremendous shade properties and hardiness. By the 1930s, however, Woodland’s elms became infested with the elm leaf beetle, whose larvae feast on the leaves, denuding the tree of its canopy. According to city records, in 1936 when Woodland began spraying to control the elm leaf beetle there were about 650 elms in Woodland.
Eighty years later, there are only 75 American elm street trees cared for by the city, with a handful of others dotting private residences in the core area. Most of these trees are in decline due to their age and structural issues related to the tree topping, which weakened upper branches. One reason American elms fell out of favor as a street tree was the fear of DED infecting the elms. Consequently, few (if any) American elms were planted in Woodland after the 1930s. Fortunately, DED has never infected any of Woodland’s American elms. However, many were removed in the late twentieth century when Woodland embarked on road widening projects in the older section of town. Entire city blocks were left devoid of shade.
In recent years the Woodland Tree Foundation and city have planted hybrid Asian elms to reintroduce this valuable tree species to Woodland. And, today, disease-resistant American elms are once again being planted in the country. Landmarking the American elm at 420 Third Street will honor the most iconic historical shade tree planted in Woodland and explain the reasons for its disappearance. Honoring this regal tree will also serve as a bridge between the eras when this elm was widely planted and valued for its canopy and efforts being made today to reintroduce disease-resistant Ulmas americana to the American landscape.