‘Part of us:’ After 250 years, Lakewood’s Moses Cleaveland tree comes down

LAKEWOOD, Ohio--  It survived about 250 years of wild Northeast Ohio weather, but fears that a decaying Moses Cleaveland tree in Lakewood could fall led to its removal.

The massive white oak has been an icon on Summit Avenue, the site of block parties and part of countless memories.

Inside Moses Cleaveland tree (Photo: Roc Woodrum/FOX 8 News)

Neighbors past and present watched as tree trimmers cut off branches and used a crane to lower them to the ground. Some neighbors kept pieces of the tree to keep as souvenirs.

“I could see all the neighbors were just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I could see tears in their eyes. It's a sad thing,” Connie Bogart said. “It's just part of us. It's kind of like losing Lake Erie. Losing this tree is a big thing for us. It's losing an icon.”

Lakewood City Arborist Chris Perry said the city measured growing decay on the tree for two decades, and it reached a point where the decaying trunk risked collapse along the busy street.

Olga Wolters, who lives nearby and is saddened by the removal, said she has looked out at it for 40 years.

“I pray to the tree every day,” Wolters said. “I won't have a tree to pray to.”

Moses Cleaveland tree (Photo: Roc Woodrum/FOX 8 News)

The tree was one of more than 200 named for surveyor and Cleveland founder Moses Cleaveland during the city’s 150th anniversary in 1946. The trees were identified as being alive before Cleaveland’s arrival in 1796.

Several photographers came to capture the dismantling of the tree.

“I’m trying to capture the story of its last day standing,” Ken Busch said.

Arborist John Palmer took clippings from the tree and said he plans to graft them to other roots to grow new trees, keeping the Moses Cleaveland tree’s legacy alive.

“In a few years when they're large enough, we'll bring them back to Lakewood and plant them maybe at the schools or in the parks,” Palmer said.

Perry said the city of Lakewood will keep a cross section of the tree’s trunk to learn more about the city’s history. The city is also preserving limbs to be used for an artistic purpose to be determined. He said the city plans to plant another white oak in its place.

“Obviously, this white oak did well for 250 years, so hopefully the spot brings good luck,” Perry said.

More stories on the Moses Cleaveland tree in Lakewood here