A Piece of St. Mark’s History Comes Down: 115 Year-Old Tree Has Witnessed Generatons

Posted: June 8, 2012

This June, a 115-year-old maple tree, one of those planted when the main building was still new, had to be taken down.

Beginning in the spring of 1894 and over the following three years, more than two hundred trees were planted around and alongside the St. Mark’s main building. Students first moved in to the still-uncompleted edifice in the autumn of 1890, but even when it was finished in 1893, the building stood alone on a barren, treeless hill. It was outgoing headmaster William Edward Peck who convinced the trustees to fund the massive landscaping project. A handful of those trees still dot the campus, and they have witnessed generations of St. Markers over more than a century. They are survivors. In September of 1938, a terrible hurricane swept through the northeastern United States. In Southborough, several hundred trees went down in the record-setting winds, including 150 on the St. Mark’s campus. The few that emerged from the storm relatively unscathed were those protected by the walls of the School, south and east of the Chapel, as well as those sheltered behind the main building.

One of the latter, dying and rotting from the inside, was cut down on June 5 of this year. If trees had eyes, this one would have seen a lot. It was there, small and sturdy, in October of 1899, when a gas explosion tore up the floor of the Schoolroom alongside it, and it stood there silently, watching the fire tubs wheeling up to the School to battle the ensuing blaze. In 1906 it saw the Schoolroom wing expanded eastward in a massive bay, designed to hold even more student desks to accommodate an increased enrollment. Perhaps it felt a little crowded then, but its roots were further encroached upon in the mid-1930s, when a tunnel was dug beneath it, connecting the main building to the new Elkins Field House.

Thousands of St. Markers have strolled by the tree, sought shelter in its shade, or lost errant Frisbees in its branches over the subsequent decades. Now it is gone, but a thick slice off the stump has been salvaged. Hopefully, it can be sanded down and polished, perhaps turned into a table or some sort of decoration, so that this tree, like those few of its sisters and brothers still standing, can remain a part of St. Mark’s School over the next 115 years and beyond.