The Great Elm

The Great Elm

February 15, 1876 - A storm brought down Boston's Great Elm on this day. The tree was a prominent local landmark with a long history as a gathering place for political rallies and public hangings. It was called the city's oldest inhabitant.

In 1765 the tree was the site of an impromptu protest that set an important precedent for civil disobedience in the colonies. A British official who was managing the implementation of the dreaded Stamp Act was hung in effigy. Crowds of people began to congregate at the tree where many spoke out against British rule. This was unusual, as most political debate traditionally took place in official town meetings where only the city's elite could participate in the discussions. For the first time women, laborers and even slaves took part in the events.

On the eve of the Revolution, the Sons of Liberty placed lanterns in the tree to symbolize unity around the uprising. The Great Elm was also the site where pirates, witches and murderers met their fate inside a hangman's noose.

The tree stood out from its surroundings due to its massive size. When measured in 1855, it stood 72 feet tall. Its gigantic branches provided a huge swath of shade over the Boston Common. At its thickest point, the canopy was over 100 feet in diameter.

For many years there was a wrought iron fence around the tree that bore this inscription:

This tree has been standing here for an unknown period. It is believed to have existed before the settlement of Boston, being full-grown in 1722, exhibited marks of old age in 1792, and was nearly destroyed by a storm in 1832.  Protected by an iron enclosure in 1854.

In the end it was a storm that sent the colossal tree crashing to the ground. In the aftermath, many Bostonians made their way to the fallen tree and gathered branches as souvenirs.

Today, a small plaque reminds visitors about the Great Elm that once towered over the Boston Common.

The Pope and the Sneeze

The Pope and the Sneeze

First Photo Op

First Photo Op