Monday, January 13, 2014

The lonely elm

When the LeBreton Flats saw the arrival of the "road header" tunneling machine, its disembodied chewing tool seen here, an old Elm Tree played host.

The tree also played host to a stop along Dennis Van Staalduinen's Jane's Walk in May 2013, providing the walkers some shade:

A couple months prior to that walk, an astute member of the Dalhousie Community Association noticed that the tree was in the parking lot that was to be turned over to the LRT west tunnel portal staging area and brought it up at a meeting.

Here is the tree along Old Wellington*, looking east into Downtown from the Transitway curve up to Albert. The portal site has been closed up to Brickhill Street, but the sidewalk on the north side of Old Wellington is still accessible. You can see various recognizable apartment and condo buildings at the top of the escarpment:

And in the opposite direction, looking west from Brickhill down Old Wellington toward Albert Street:

A few memos, from the DCA to Councillor Holmes, and from there to City Staff, and the tree was to be retained. So when the parking lots were levelled and the road header arrived on the site (some assembly required!), the elm tree remained:

This is a good thing, since the tree had been there for quite some time. It was visible in this 1960s aerial photo of LeBreton Flats (I stand to be corrected about the date). It appears to be the one on the left in the green circle. I've highlighted some other landmarks, which are few and far between in LeBreton Flats: Booth Street, Old Wellington Street (then just "Wellington"), the aqueduct as it runs under the Lloyd-Lett bridge (and J.R. Booth's railroad tracks over it), etc. At the bottom right is the Fleet Street water pumping station, behind the former Western Methodist Church.

Once the road header was put together, the entire complement of machinery was assembled for a display and photo op in October 2013. Heading off the lineup is the elm tree. In the centre is the former Brickhill Street, which serves as an entrance to the site. It was renamed from Hill St in 2001 as part of the elimination of duplicate street names in the newly-amalgamated City of Ottawa:

Work continues on the site, with the roadheader, since given the name "Jawbreaker", now 100 metres along in its tunneling. This Caterpillar underground loader returns to the tunnel after emptying a load of tunnel rock debris into a corner of the site, while the elm tree stands silent watch:

Let's hope it lasts many more years to see LeBreton Flats rise again!

[2019-11-14 edit: The tree was cut down, and based on my nearest photos of the tree still there and no longer there, it came down at some point between December 21, 2014, and March 28, 2015. So we got an extra year of air-cleaning out of the effort.]
[*also 2019-11-14: It appears that this section was never formally called "Old Wellington". I have been conducting a lengthy investigation on the topic of Wellington Street which should be coming out in late 2019]

1 comment:

  1. Very moving - a tree being cared for and the fact that it is an elm and so many were taken down because of Dutch Elm disease.