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
Please see the attached historical essay “Woodland’s King Oaks”, written by David Wilkinson, from his book manuscript titled Gertrude’s Oaks. This essay provides historical context and the basis for nominating this oak and the one at 304 Casa Linda Drive. These two ancient oaks are Woodland’s largest and oldest trees and located in very visible places, accessible to the public.
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.
First Street/Marshall Ave.
Cork Oak (located in the planting strip on the southwest corner)
The Cork Oak (Quercus suber) located in the planting strip on the southwest corner of First Street and Marshall Ave appears to be very old with a 61.1” diameter. It may have been planted at the time when Hesperian College moved from downtown in the 1890s to this location (see city historic marker placed along College Street, near Marshall Ave.). This site eventually became Woodland’s first public high school. There are a significant number of cork oaks in Woodland, as they are well adapted to the local climate.
Lee Middle School, 520 West St.
Native Valley Oak tree, (200 ft. south of West and Lincoln St.)
The valley oak (Quercus lobata) located at Lee Middle School adjacent to the school building, about 200 feet south of the intersection of West and Lincoln Street, is a very large specimen tree, with a diameter (at breast height – DBH) measuring 72.9 inches in October 2018. This is the fourth-largest diameter tree in Woodland. This tree is in good health and has been tastefully pruned by the Woodland School District and remains an aesthetically pleasing tree. Its location on public school property makes it a good candidate for imparting an appreciation of native trees by Lee Middle School students.
Douglass Middle School, 525 Granada St.
Native Valley Oak (just south of gym)
The valley oak located at Douglass Middle School, just south of the gymnasium, has a diameter at breast height of 51.3". Though it is quite smaller than the tree at Lee Middle school, it is an aesthetically pleasing tree that with continued good care by Woodland School District it will continue to grow and thrive and yield benefits for many more decades (perhaps even many generations), including cooling from shade and resulting energy savings, air pollution migration, food and habitat for native scrub jays, storm water attenuation, and beauty.
It will also serve as an example of our native Sacramento Valley natural history, which by its mere presence will be noticed and appreciated by current and future Douglass Middle School students. Some of these students might perhaps be inspired by this tree and develop interest in working to preserve native trees, or trees in general, or work in other areas of natural resource management.
Beamer Park, 100-198 Palm Ave.
Two native Valley Oak trees
The two large native Valley Oak trees located at Beamer Park were saved only because the park was built around them. Once upon a time, Beamer Park had an abundance of native oaks that were used as a marketing tool for the rustic housing enclave, but they have all since disappeared, greatly altering the skyline and appearance of this historic housing tract.
City Park, 601-629 Cleveland St.
Two native Valley Oak trees
The two large native Valley Oak trees located at City Park are located on different edges of the park near Walnut Street and Elm Street.
This is Woodland’s oldest city park. The Women’s Improvement Club raised money to buy the land, which was donated to the city for the public park with explicit instructions to preserve the native oaks growing within its boundaries. A few have survived to the present day.
Shakespeare Oak Tree, 1916
Six years after City Park opened to the public in 1910, Woodland Shakespeare Club planted this valley oak to mark the tercentennial (300th) anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and honor the world’s greatest playwright and poet. Founded in 1886, Woodland Shakespeare Club is the oldest women’s literary club in California. This engraved stone bench and tree were their gifts to the people of Woodland.
“As this tree develops, may it teach us the lesson of its kind—the sturdy qualities, the glory of facing the storms and, having faced them, stand ready to face as many more…and may all those who will enjoy the comfort of this seat and, in the coming years, the sheltering shade of this oak…honor Shakespeare’s memory and be reminded that even a little candle may throw its beams afar.”
~Woodland Shakespeare Club
Paradox Walnut tree
Paradox Walnut tree growing on the S/W comer Oak/Walnut streets at City Park was donated to the community by eminent horticulturalist, Luther Burbank, for Arbor Day 1925. It is a beautiful specimen of a tree which he hybridized.
250 First St.
Woodland Library Block Palm Trees
In 1904 in Woodland there were two prominent community plantings of palm trees, which have survived to the present. After a deeply poetic Arbor Day address given by Congregational Church minister Rev. C. Calvert Smoot at the armory, which was “profusely decorated in flags and bunting,” people congregated at the Woodland Cemetery where a line of Canary Island date palms were planted along the north border of the burial ground; the north border was evidently expanded over time since today the line of palms are buffered by other graves located between Cross Street and the old northern border.
Three months after the 1904 Arbor Day event, Mayor Richard H. Beamer (1849-1916) personally purchased and supervised the planting of the Canary Island date palms rising majestically in front of the Woodland Public Library. California fan palms were added in the planting strips bordering the library on First and Court streets shortly after the library was constructed in 1905.
Mayor Beamer has presented the library trustees with 26 California palm trees. The trees arrived from Los Angeles several days ago and were conveyed to the new Carnegie library site Monday, where they will be used to beautify the grounds. The mayor deserves the thanks of the entire community for his splendid gift.
Beamer’s palm landscape was known as “Library Park.” The Canary Island palms have grown tall and gracefully sway in the seasonal breezes, are evergreen, and complement the Mission Revival style architecture of the library, inspired by the romance of Spanish California. Calling the palms “his monuments,” Mayor Beamer personally cared for the palms until they were established. Richard H. Beamer left a legacy of trees. A highly accomplished public figure and businessman, Beamer loved planting trees as his “hobby.” Beamer’s beloved palms at the library and along Palm Avenue in Beamer Park live on. In 2005 the Woodland city council designated the Canary Island palms at the library “landmark trees” based upon their historical significance.
On the day of Beamer’s funeral in 1916 all banks in Woodland and many businesses closed between 11AM to 2 PM in his honor. The Mail of Woodland called Richard H. Beamer “The best loved man in Woodland.”
Richard H. Beamer is buried at the Woodland Cemetery. A solitary Canary Island date palm casts shadowy light across his gravestone.