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1982: Friends of Longwood Mall

The July 15, 1982 issue of the Brookline Chronicle Citizen featured a story about efforts to save the trees of Longwood Mall, which were not in good health at the time. Ellen Golde, who 40 years later still leads citizen efforts to looks after the trees, led the campaign which raised over $20,000 (which is over $62,000 in 2023 dollars!) and persuaded Brookline to match the funds. 

In 1984, Friends of Longwood Mall received a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation award for their efforts to save the trees.


Text of the article:

A neighborhood group has come up with a plan to save the nationally-treasured stand of beech trees on Longwood Mall, using both town funds and money raised through private donations.

The trees, planted nearly 150 years ago, are threatened by some twenty years of neglect. A recent review by the Lowden Company of Needham, commissioned by Mall neighbors, shows that tour trees are likely to die in the next few years. while the remainder need immediate pruning, fertilizing and cultivation.


After a meeting with Longwood residents Tuesday, the Selectmen said they will ask Town Meeting next spring for $20,000 to rejuvenate the mall's beech trees.


The beech trees were planted on Longwood Mall in 1850 by David Sears, a wealthy Brookline landowner. In 1902, thirteen o his descendants deeded the mall to the town.


Since that time, Longwood Mall has been cited by National Geographic magazine and the Arnold Arboretum as one of the finest single stands of beech trees in the country. The Mall is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


When the Sears family turned the Mall over to Brookline, it also turned over responsibility for the care of the valuable beech trees. William Collins, Brookline's assistant director of forestry, estimates the trees were pruned regularly until the mid-1960's. In ears following, Brookline's tree maintenance programs have been all but eliminated in the lace of budget cuts in the forestry budget.

As a result. today all of the trees are growing abnormally slowly, many are brittle and splitting from the sheer weight of their enormous limbs, and several suffer from disease or pest


*We represent some 70 to 100 abutters and interested people who want to save the mall."

Chatham Street resident Ellen Golde told the Board Tuesday.

Golde's group has volunteered to raise $20,000 (it already has $18.000 in pledges) in private contributions for long-term tree maintenance, it the town will kick in the $20.000 for a "one-time fix" of problems that need immediate attention.


That "one-time fix" would include planting one new beech tree, pruning and fertilizing all the trees, and stringing thick cable in some of the more brittle trees that are cracking and splitting under their own weight.


In return, the privately raised maintenance fund would pay for annual routine upkeep of the mall, including fertilizing, routine pruning, and special spraying for disease and pest control.

The maintenance fund would not be used for certain basic town responsibilities, such as moving and raking. or the removal of dead trees from the mall.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Stein termed the proposal "a superb concept" and Tree-Planting Commission Chairman Hamilton Coolidge thanked the Longwood neighbors for their interest.


*This is the kind of joint commitment by citizens that we like to support," Coolidge said.

Golde called the private contributions "heart-felt money" donated by people who already pay some of the highest residential property taxes in town.

Longwood property owners felt the highest increase in property values and tax bills this year, in part because properties located near the Mall are very desirable.


"Here we are paying more dollars in taxes and vet we're being asked to give over more money for town purposes." she said. "There's a certain amount of resentment that we now have to maintain what's making our taxes higher."

The Longwood neighbors' plan would permit the Tree Planting Commission to administer the maintenance fund. with direction from Mall butters. Neighbors have also asked that the Commission replace another three beech trees by 1985.


Work on the Mall is expected to begin next spring, once Town Meeting approves the plan.

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