Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Park Service to Plant Historic Trees in Sheridan Circle

Statue of General Philip Sheridan is focus of the Circle and the Avenue
We are delighted that the National Park Service decided to change the tree species to be planted in its famous park - Sheridan Circle - at the heart of Embassy Row.

Elsewhere along Embassy Row, the area shaded by trees, or tree canopy, has expanded by 13% in ten years.  But in Sheridan Circle, there may be less canopy according to satellite data.
American Linden planted 1904 is removed in 2011.
Why? The original big trees planted in 1904 have been dying off. Further, the trees NPS planted to replace them have not done well.  Or the replacements are okay but are too small to increase the canopy.

Our group has urged that trees in this circle be American lindens, not the little-leaf linden variety planted in recent decades.
Now replacement trees will be American linden, announced Yue Li, Park Landscape Architect for NAMA, the National Mall & Memorial Parks division of NPS, which governs this park.  Ms. Li met onsite about the trees with RMA Board member Robert Nevitt and RMA President Deborah Shapley as part of our emerging partnership to restore grandeur to this amazing but neglected landmark.
Ring of mature American lindens around the statue in1970.
The importance of this streetscape to the nation is in our book, A Grand Avenue Revival.  The original, even-spaced ring of 16 trees were integral to the flowing formal landscape of the Grand Avenue.  

Many of the mansions and the statue of General Sheridan were erected after the city planted 500 American lindens in double rows along the sidewalks and within this circle. This is why architecture and landscape are married here in “a street façade unique in the city and perhaps the nation.”*

The statue of  General Sheridan was dedicated in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. At the same time, mansions by noted architects - Waddy Wood, Glenn Brown, George Oakley Totten,  Nathan Wyeth - rose there, along with the prominence of their owners.

Rob Nevitt Tree Project Director and Yue Li of NPS-NAMA
See our Historic Initiative page for a slideshow of the amazing original trees of Sheridan Circle through the decades. Pictures compare the little-leaf variety  not suited to our Grand Avenue – with the bigger linden type.  The slides have more on our developing Sheridan Circle Restoration Project.

Under the new NPS/NAMA policy, only the two empty sites in the tree ring will get American Lindens; more should be planted at NPS replaces other trees in the ring, though it will be years before we see visible change in the Circle's landscape and canopy area.

But, to quote the Chinese proverb: "The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago; the next-best time is today."
* National Park Service 1974 nomination of the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District. Quoted at A Grand Avenue Revival, page 10.