ZOAR, Ohio (WJW) — Residents of the historic village of Zoar on Monday reluctantly carved up a piece of their history, after it was splintered by the storm that swept across Northeast Ohio on Saturday.
Maintenance workers used chainsaws to cut up the top half of the “Tree of Everlasting Life,” the centerpiece of Zoar’s “Garden of Happiness,” after it was ripped off by the powerful winds.
The Norway spruce was planted in 1929 and over the decades, the tree has withstood everything from tornadoes to lightning strikes.
“We had like 60 mile-an-hour gusts of wind and if you look at what’s left of the tree in there, you’ll see it was struck by lightning actually twice. The second time was about 10 years ago,” said Zoar Mayor Scott Gordon.
Zoar residents who pitched in to cut up the tree said it appears the top half of the trunk had been damaged by one of the earlier lightning strikes.
Zoar was founded in 1817 by Protestants who fled Germany to escape religious persecution.
The garden in the center of the village was created to symbolize each path that can be taken to heaven and everlasting life. The original centerpiece tree was planted by the Zoarites in the 1820s, and the Norway spruce cut in half on Saturday is believed to be the third Tree of Everlasting Life over the past 200 years.
“It’s sad to see a 90-some-year-old tree have this happen to it. It would have been nice to think it would be here forever,” Jon Elsasser, president of the Zoar Community Association, told FOX 8 News.
Village leaders said many Northeast Ohio families have fond memories of the tree.
“It’s a landmark — for as long as it’s lived and the amount of people that come in here and take pictures with their families under this tree is just amazing,” said Zoar Maintenance Manager Joe Brown. “I said, ‘I sure hope it doesn’t come down on my watch,’ but here we are.”
The village must now decide if the tree can be saved or if it would be wiser to plant a new Tree of Everlasting Life. An arborist advised the village that the damaged tree can live another 10 years, but the mayor said they are leaning toward planting a new Tree of Everlasting Life, which would symbolize a rebirth of the Garden of Happiness.
“I hope it’s a strong tree, and serves just like the predecessor trees and lasts us a long time,” said Gordon.