On Monday April 30th, in historic Long Branch, a magnificent Red Oak, nicknamed Big Red, will be recognized by Forests Ontario as a Heritage Tree. The TD Heritage Tree Program tells the story of Ontario’s diverse and unique trees and brings awareness to the social, cultural, historical and ecological value of trees.
City of Toronto Councillor, Mark Grimes of Ward 6 will be present at Long Branch Park on Monday April 30th at 1:30 PM to commemorate this event. The great Red Oak will be added to the Heritage Tree online map so that visitors can learn more about the tree and its longstanding history.
“Besides being a living 200-year legacy of history and culture of Long Branch, this stately Red Oak will continue to thrive and provide economic and environmental benefits for generations to come” says Toni Ellis, Heritage Tree Coordinator of Forests Ontario. “We need more communities like the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association, to nominate potential heritage trees so that we can celebrate and share the stories of these living testaments to our history.”
Faculty and students of James S. Bell Middle School have been invited to the unveiling ceremony. The students will be studying trees in the classroom, learning about their environmental and economic importance.
Based on measurements taken of the tree’s diameter, it was determined that it dates back to the late 1810s. In 1818, when George Brown, one of the Fathers of Confederation, was just an infant rocking in his cradle, a single red oak acorn took root in the richly treed forests of Southern Etobicoke, in what is now known as Long Branch Toronto.
Long Branch Grove Resort
Years later, the Red Oak served as a cooling canopy over one of the water fountains at Long Branch Grove and Resort, established in 1884. Just steps away, the tree was in full view of the famous Japanese
Pagoda Long Branch Hotel, the Carousel, Ball Park and Dance Pavilions and heard the delight of kids sliding down the water flume into Lake Ontario. Surrounding the Long Branch Park, Villas of Queen Anne, Victorian, Jacobean and Tudor-style, populated the Avenues of Long Branch, Lakeview and (now 35th St.) and old Lake Promenade.
The fact that Long Branch was probably named after the New Jersey’s USA Presidential summer resort settlement of 1837 is no surprise. In the late 1890s Long Branch Grove was only a 40 minute ride on the ‘Rupert’ or ‘Star Line’ steamboats from Torontos Habour. Yes, Long Branch was very much the vacation spot for Toronto’s gentry elite.
New Residential Development
Later in the 1910s, Long Branch started to become a suburban residential oasis, with lush treed 50 foot lots starting at only $8.00 per foot. The Pines, and Pines Beach 1912 advocated the fresh air and all the healthy aspects of lush treed areas with steps to Lake Ontario.
Escaped the Great Fire
Sadly, during a severe cold snap in February of 1958, the 75-year-old Long Branch Hotel burned down, due to a torch being applied to a frozen pipe. Luckily there was a strong North wind that day which saved the great oak from being scorched.
The 1933 Long Branch Cenotaph
In 1933, the great Red Oak witnessed the construction of a monument. Where the water fountain once displayed, the Long Branch Cenotaph now stands, honouring soldiers of the First World War, Second World War, and the Korean War as well as fallen heroes of Canadian Peace Missions.
Today, you can experience the magnificence of the towering 80-foot Red Oak at the south-east corner of Long Branch Avenue and Park Blvd.