Elms at Middlebury- A History

Like many other towns, cities, and campuses, Middlebury has a long and storied history with the Amercian Elm. The following are pictures from the College Digital Archives (thanks! see them for copyright information) and the tree files from Middlebury’s office of Facilities Services. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

Looking through the colleges digital archives , early pictures of the campus show a nearly treeless landscape. The College was sited outside of town, on a rocky knoll, in what was probably poor sheep pasture.

Mead Chapel-date unknown

Mead Chapel-date unknown

DKE House-1905

DKE House-1905

Pearson Hall 1912

Pearson Hall 1912-note the solitary elm

The Town of Middlebury at this time, like many other New England towns and cities, featured elm lined streets.

Court_St_looking_North_Middlebury_Vermont

Main Street Middlebury 1906

Main Street Middlebury 1906

Main Street-Middlebury 1908

Main Street-Middlebury 1908

In the 1920’s Middlebury College started a concerted effort to plant many more trees on campus, and American Elm figured prominently, as was typical for town and municipal plantings of the era.

Mead Chapel-1930's

Mead Chapel-1930′s-young elms line the walk

Mead Chapel-1930's

Mead Chapel-1930′s-later, elms starting to get some size

Two pictures of the Chi Psi house (now Munford) show how quickly elms can mature and make an impact in the landscape.

Chi Psi House-1910

Chi Psi House-1910

Chi Psi-1945

Chi Psi-1945

For about 40 years, the elms grew well, and about 200 graced the campus. Elms lined the walkway to Mead Chapel, forming the classic cathedral shaped arch over the sidewalk. Elms were planted along College Street, lower campus, and in the small quad around Mead, Proctor, Hillcrest and Gifford. Elms were also planted around many of the fraternities, such as DKE and Chi Psi.

Mead Chapel Walk-1930's

Mead Chapel Walk-1930′s

Gifford Hall 1941

Gifford Hall 1941-the foreground trees are elms

McCullough 1942-elms line the front of the building

Voter Hall 1942-elms line the front of the building

At maturity, elms lined many streets and buildings, creating an attractive shade canopy for campus and town roads, such as College Street.

View from Mead Chapel steps towards Hillcrest

View from Mead Chapel steps towards Hillcrest

Forest Hall 1970

Forest Hall 1970

Twilight Hall looking west towards campus

Twilight Hall looking west towards campus

Dutch Elm disease had come into the state in 1945 down near Bennington, but hadn’t made into the Middlebury area until 1960.

0578_001At that time Middlebury College started the effort to preserve its elms. Early efforts focused on controlling the elm bark beetle. The major pesticide used was DDT.

Letter to trustees-from Facilities Services files

Letter to trustees-from Facilities Services files

Rachel Carson’s classic book ‘Silent Spring’ effectively ended the barely effective sprays, with spraying in the Middlebury area discontinued in the early 1980’s. Other pesticides were trialed, including Malathion and Bidrin.

Memo from Walter Brooker to Harvey Drinkwine, head of Facilities

Memo from Walter Brooker to Harvey Drinkwine, head of Facilities

Newspaper clipping sent

Newspaper clipping sent

Letter to Bartlett Tree from Harvey Drinkwine

Letter to Bartlett Tree from Harvey Drinkwine

0583_001

0585_001

0584_001

Sanitation was also emphasized. The State of Vermont would inspect elms, and when a dying tree was found, it would be tagged, and a notice sent to the landowner requiring removal of the tree.

0499_001

Letter to President Stratton from the State of Vermont-from Facilities Services file

Middlebury removed many elms early in the battle, and again in the 1070’s and 80’s, with over 117 lost in a three year period from ‘84-’86. From 1981-1991, 174 elms were lost. Many of the remaining trees had major limbs removed to stop the spread of the disease.

Tree map from 1981-elm locations in red

Tree map from 1981-elm locations in red

 



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