By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer
What once stood as a campus scenic icon is now a ghost of the past. On Thursday, Sept. 16, Buildings and Grounds announced via a campus email the removal of the American beech tree that stood in front of William Smith Hall.
The decision was made due to a number of branches falling as result of a thunderstorm the previous day.
According to the email from Buildings and Grounds Manager Mallory Westlund, “the force of the fall and torquing of the branches has caused the split in the trunk to open. The next big wind will split it in half.”
Senior Joseph Bozzi called the removal of the beech tree “very saddening.” He thought that “we could have saved it before cutting it all down.”
The sense of sadness was felt by many students across campus.
“I’m sad that the space is so empty now,” junior Asia Webb said.
“I can’t believe they tore it down before I could climb it,” junior Lauryn Konieczka said.
The tree wasn’t loved just by Washington College’s current students. When the news broke, many alumni were just as saddened.
“[It’s] sad,” Amy Rudolph ’19 said. “I don’t even go there anymore.”
Rudolph said that in 2016, there was a similar event in which the school had to remove some cherry blossom trees that were located along Washington Avenue because they had a disease.
Though still upset by the tree’s removal, many students understood the decision.
“It needed to come down, it was going to kill someone,” senior Alison Buckwalter said.
“What I would like people to know about the decision to cut down the American beech is that it was not made lightly. The tree was truly symbolic of the College, and the green almost looks empty without it,” Member of the WAC Tree Advisory Committee and senior Melissa DeFrancesco said. “I know that many people are upset because they do not understand the decision, but sometimes the right choice is also the most difficult to make.”
Junior AJ Geraldi was one of the last students — along with the rest of Department Chair and Associate Professor of English Dr. Courtney Rydel’s women writers to 1800 class — to sit under the tree on Wednesday, Sept. 15, the same day of the thunderstorm that broke off the branch.
“We didn’t know it was the last time anyone would sit under the tree,” Geraldi said. “It was such a weird experience.”
The removal of the beech tree has also sparked concern about the status of the remaining trees on campus.
Dr. Rydel requested that the faculty council inspect the remaining trees on campus to make sure that no other trees are susceptible to storm damage, as it poses a threat to student safety.
Nevertheless, the removal of the American beech tree is an end-of-an-era symbol for WC.
“It’s almost like an original part of the school died with the tree since it’s so old,” senior Maggie Moore said. “Hopefully a new tree takes its place and in another 300 years, future WC students will be able to appreciate it like we did.”
Photo by Sammy Jarrett