Large tree featured in design of Choate building in Wallingford removed

Large tree featured in design of Choate building in Wallingford removed


WALLINGFORD — A large copper beech tree featured in the design of a recently constructed building at Choate Rosemary Hall was removed this week for safety reasons.

The Cameron and Edward Lanphier Center for Mathematics and Computer Science, which opened in 2015 on North Elm Street, was constructed to form a courtyard around the tree. The building was designed by New-Haven based Pelli Clarke Pelli, a company that focuses on environmentally sustainable architecture. Janet Yoder, a company spokeswoman, told the Record-Journal in 2014 that the tree symbolized the company and Choate’s sustainable values.

“Preserving the tree provides summer time shading, and because it is deciduous, more light in the winter,” Yoder said at the time. “It is an example of a building trying to sit in harmony with the context and natural elements.”

Lorraine Connelly, Choate’s associate director of communications for marketing and media, said Tuesday that despite extra care provided to the tree in the last three years, “it wasn’t thriving any longer” and was removed for safety reasons this week. A large crane was utilized to remove the tree.

Before, during and after construction of the Lanphier Center, an arborist performed bi-weekly inspections to monitor the tree, which was treated for root decay and various pests, Connelly said. Organic material containing nutrients was injected into the tree in an attempt to regrow vital roots, and staff set up a watering program during drought conditions last year, she added. Despite the efforts, the tree’s health didn’t improve.

Connelly estimated the tree is at least 100 years old. Choate recenlty celebrated its 125th anniversary. She couldn’t provide any other details on the history of tree. The school is working with two local artisans to create benches and gifts out of the tree’s remains, according to Connelly.

“The wood will be reclaimed,” she said, adding that while the removal of the tree is sad, “it will have kind of an after life with the reclaimed projects.”

Meriden officials plan to take down a massive sycamore in the city’s downtown this week due to safety concerns. The city’s parks and recreation director, inspired by “The Giving Tree,” hopes to turn the tree’s stump into a bench.

When the Lanphier Center was built, removing the copper beech was already a possibility, Connelly said, so the architect developed a contigency plan to fill the space vacated by the tree. Connelly said she wasn’t sure what the plan entailed. Representatives from the building and landscape architectual firms affiliated with the construction of the Lanphier Center couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

The copper beech is mentioned in a June 1995 Record-Journal article about historic trees in town. In the story, it is referred to as “the wedding tree.”

Local photographer Jim Motta told the Record-Journal at the time it was his favorite tree in town, and that he took pictures of at least 50 newlyweds under it.

“If its a Wallingford wedding and time allows it, we go there,” he said at the time. “It’s very old and very high. It’s shaped beautiful.”


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