When my family and I moved into Inman Park in 2000, just over two decades ago, the neighborhood was full of mature trees, primarily water oaks (Quercus nigra), which shaded our streets and yards.
Here are some photos taken from Google Maps of Waverly Way from 2007 and January 2022, looking east and west of our home at Waverly Way’s intersection with Hurt Street. Note the red arrow.
Recently the city had to take down the last of the roughly 80-year-old water oaks along Waverly Way. The crown of the tree was healthy, but its buttress roots could no longer be counted on to keep the tree standing through a high wind or ice storm.
How quickly things change!
And change again! Here are some blackgums (Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’) which the Pattersons agreed to have planted in tree wells along their Hurt Street sidewalk. They will reach 40-60 feet eventually. And the two white oaks (Quercus alba) that they planted in their front yard years ago (not pictured here) could grow as high at 80-100 feet.
Our next Inman Park tree planting will be Saturday, January 21. Let us know if your yard or sidewalk strip needs a tree!
No, David did not chop that tree down with the axe in his hand. The city removed those old cherry trees along upper Alta because they had long been declining.
David and Kati immediately contacted Tree Watch about planting new trees. Fortunately, through our partner Trees Atlanta, we were able to get our hands on some redbuds (Cercis canadensis), the tree species which already lines both sides of the street from Euclid to Moreland.
(That axe did come in handy when an old root needed to be persuaded to make room for some new roots.)
It’s always great when we can welcome new trees to the neighborhood at the same time we’re welcoming new neighbors!
The next time you’re walking or driving along Hurt Street near the MARTA station, take note of these new trees planted on the east side of the street:
There is a nice story here.
Our new trees are southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), but not just any southern magnolias.
These are scions of the locally famous Spiller Field magnolias.
Spiller Field, also known as Ponce de Leon Park, was the baseball venue once located at 650 Ponce de Leon Avenue, now the site of a shopping center across the street from Ponce City Market.
The field was constructed in 1907 where an amusement park had been operating for several years. (Before the amusement park, a lovely grove of beech trees had shaded the natural springs in that area.)
“Poncey” was home to the minor league Atlanta Crackers until 1965 and also hosted the Black Crackers from 1919 to 1952. In the outfield of the original field were two southern magnolias. A ball hit into the branches of these trees — which didn’t happen often, as they were roughly 450 feet from home plate — was treated as still in play.
Looking back, we can probably agree that the Spiller Field magnolias had their most historically significant moment when Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers came to town in 1949.
At 1:30 p.m. on April 8, 1949, Earl Mann, the president of the Atlanta Crackers of the Class AA Southern Association, had his regular monthly meeting with Hughes Spalding, the chairman of the Crackers’ board of directors. Spalding did not record in his desk diary what he and Mann discussed, but surely a major topic of their conversation was the game scheduled for that evening at venerable Ponce de Leon Park. The game pitted the all-white Crackers against the integrated Brooklyn Dodgers, with their two black players, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. The Dodgers-Crackers contest would be the first mixed-race baseball game in Atlanta and the first in a major city of the Deep South.
In the end, the three-game series was played without major incident, but there had been rumors that the KKK would be waiting out by the magnolia trees just beyond center field. The final game, played on a Sunday afternoon, drew 25,221 fans, including 13,885 Black spectators, to a park that seated only 14,500.
Earl Mann, of course, was the father of our own Oreon Mann, who with his mother Myra scattered his father’s ashes at the base of one of the trees in 1990.
Through the good work of Trees Atlanta and Bold Springs Nursery, trees propagated from the Spiller Field magnolias have come to Oreon Mann’s beloved Inman Park. Genetically identical to the original trees, they celebrate a legacy that is important to the city and to our neighborhood.
When Jeanne and I moved into our Waverly Way home, back in the year 2000, there stood a huge water oak (Quercus nigra) between our house and our neighbor to the east.
Several years later, that oak died, and so our neighbor had to take it down. But it left some acorns behind!
In 2010, you can just see a sapling poking its head out of the bushes, in front of the flowering dogwood:
The next year, it’s making a bit of progress, though it’s hard to pick it out among all the other volunteers.
By 2014, with its root system just the way it wants it, the oak has leapt up.
Here is the tree now, on May 22, 2021. Roughly a decade of growth. It’s more than 60 feet tall. Look to the left. That’s a white oak (Quercus alba) that I myself planted probably five years before that water oak even thought about germinating.