Killed from the roots

There is a classic west side semi-detached home at the corner of Oak and Preston, opposite Plouffe Park. Many decades ago proud homeowners planted matching young trees on the front lawn.

Here’s an aerial photo from 1928 showing the trees were quite large even then:

The two trees are right in the centre of the photo, below the lower right corner of Plouffe Park. Bridgehead’s Roastery shown to the right, back then was probably still Bell Telephone’s horse stables. The Plant Bath was still new, and was more than a swimming pool. It’s public health function as a place to bathe and shower was forefront. Swim times were segregated, with men and women given alternating times to use the single change room and wash room. Only girls and women wore bathing suits in the pool. It was the mid-thirties before men were introduced to bathing suits.

Half a century, or maybe even a full century later, the trees at the corner of Oak were still going strong.

Then the road crews came along.

Notice the strange curbing at the base of the tree. The littler curb on the top is the original garden bed edging. The extra high curb at the base was added when the city lowered the sidewalk.

Of course, they lowered it a lot more than what you see here. They put in a new road base, and new sidewalk base, and then there’s the thickness of the concrete sidewalk too. Safe to say they removed the top foot or more of top soil and nourishing roots.

Not unexpectedly, the tumult pushed the tree over the edge, and it slowly died off each year since it lost its roots back in 2007.

Of course there is a “replacement tree”, planted in road bed material and a bit of “structural soil” (60% rock, 40% clay), visible off to the left.

And more recently …

I don’t imagine the city’s street tree program will replace it. Too expensive to grind out the roots. “Too dangerous” to plant a new tree “so close to the corner”, blocking the “sight triangle” and all that.

And so our urban environment gets a little bit more diminished.

But not all is lost. Maybe we could turn it into a parking spot?


6 thoughts on “Killed from the roots

  1. It is unfortunate that this occured. Hopefully the city has some form of master plan to deal with the loss of the inner city tree canopy. It is a tough task, reconciling mature trees with ongoing changes to infra-structure. Not sure of the answer. Perhaps you could interview the “powers that be” to get some form of explanation on their policies in such circumstances.

  2. I always mourn the loss of any of Ottawa’s great trees. So sad. We have three behind our home and I’m always afraid that one day Hydro will take out their middle branches as there is a Hydro line going through their branches. Of course this will eventually lead to the decline of those trees. Another thing- we say it was the mid 30’s before men wore bathing suits. So what did they wear?

    1. “it was the mid 30’s before men wore bathing suits. So what did they wear?”

      I don’t know what the rabble wore, but my male ancestors wore tuxedos.

    2. They wore nothing until the 30s when rental bathing suits became an option. As the depression ended i guess we grew more affluent and boys got bathing suits too.

  3. A side note about that house. Up until a year or so ago there was a V painted on the Preston side of the house. Someone told me that it dated back to the end of WWII and was painted to celebrate our victory. Eric do you have any more information?

    1. Matthew…first i heard of that story, altho i remember tbe V.

      This is an italian neighbourhood, for much of the war Italy was the enemy…so id wonder at such a story. And we even have a monument to local fascist leadership.

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