Safety Concerns Prompt Removal of Walters House Oak

Battered by ravages of weather for scores of years to the point it had become a safety hazard, a once-stately oak that had shaded the front lawn of the Walters House since the early 20th century lost its battle with old age last week and had to be removed. Measuring 4 feet in diameter at its base, the dead tree already had caused some major problems in recent years, including one incident when one of its dead limbs fell into power lines, causing a loud explosion, which resulted in an hours-long power outage for several square blocks in the city.

Cause of death? Probably old age, experts agree. Although the maximum life expectancy for such trees is about 140 years, nobody knows for sure how old the tree actually was. However, Walters House was built in about 1903 and it probably was planted or sprouted about then.

University officials are considering what to do to replace it. “Once the stump is ground, we are going to grade the area, add some dirt and plant grass,” said Brenau Facilities Director Michael Hollimon. Senior Vice President and CEO David Barnett says another tree could go in its place, but it would be a smaller variety. There is not enough space to allow proper development of a root structure to support another large, tall oak. And, Hollimon added, “Proximity to the power lines are a major concern.”

The old tree’s giant branches hung over well-trafficked sidewalks and the intersection of Boulevard and Academy streets. Walters House is in constant use by university offices of external relations, alumni affairs and communications with many employees, students and guests in and out of the house throughout the year.