University removes Rotunda magnolias

Action creates additional space for Rotunda restoration

The sound of chainsaws echoed across the Lawn Thursday, as workers cut down seven Magnolia trees surrounding the Rotunda. The trees ranged from 60 to close to 100 years old.

The removal is part of the Rotunda’s second phase of renovations, which call for significant improvements to the heating, plumbing and other internal systems of the building, University spokesperson McGregor McCance said.

“One of the large components of the second phase of renovations is the installation of a major underground utilities room in the East courtyard, which will house modern mechanical, heating and other equipment,” he said in an email.

The renovations will serve as a key part of “modernizing the Rotunda,” McCance said, and it will also make way for an archeological dig in the courtyards.

“Other work on the exterior that necessitates removal of the trees includes work on the porticos, wings and terraces,” McCance added.

The magnolia trees held an important significance for many on Grounds, said Student Council President Eric McDaniel, a fourth-year College student.

“[The trees] are sort of an iconic part of the view of the Rotunda,” he said.

Their removal was an unfortunate necessity, said Third-year Council Vice President Blake Griggs, also in the College.

“[The trees are] what you think of when you think of the Lawn,” Griggs said. “It’s very sad … [but] there was not very much we could have done to stop it.”

Several of the trees were also in poor health, a contributing factor in the need to take them down, McDaniel and Griggs said.

Two arborists from the National Park Service’s Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, in Boston, Mass., examined the magnolias in September. They recommended two trees in the west garden be removed, regardless of construction efforts, McCance said.

McCance maintained that the renovations, not the health of the trees, was the primary reason for their removal.

“Removal of the trees was a decision made to allow for the second phase of renovations to proceed, not because of their conditions,” he said.

New trees and flowers will be planted after the Rotunda’s surrounding gardens are completed after the renovations, McCance said.

McDaniel said the new gardens will be “more accessible to students.”

The University will also plant a new set of magnolias in a separate location, McCance said.

The lumber from the fallen magnolias will be recycled in some fashion, McCance said. “Artists, for example, are among those who have expressed interest [in the wood],” he said.

Published February 2, 2014 in FP test, News

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