On the morning of August 27, 2011, Hurricane Irene blew through Newport News with high winds and rain. The Mariners’ Museum Park fared quite well with only 40 trees down, compared to 3,000 downed trees from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. However, once the storm had passed and the damage assessed, we discovered that the oldest known tree in the Park was one of the 40. A 355-year-old white oak tree in Williams Field. To say that Park staff was devastated is an understatement!
Luckily, the story doesn’t stop there! Upon closer inspection, we discovered a hidden history beyond its impressive age! There was concrete running through a majority of the tree, stabilized with what appeared to be handmade nails. Who put it there? How long ago was it put in? WHY was it put in? It was obvious that it had been there for a while. And we assumed that an injury of some sort had occurred to the tree and it was “fixed” with concrete. But for years, that’s all we had.