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Brookline Then and Now: Great Trees Now Gone

Photo credits: Brookline Historical Society; National Park Service; Google Street View
June 12, 2023  Updated June 13, 2023 at 6:06 p.m.

When 19th century Bostonians talked about great elm trees, there were three that usually came to mind: the Great Elm on Boston Common; the Washington Elm on Cambridge Common; and the Aspinwall Elm – shown here at left – by most accounts the largest of them all. Half of the tree – where Billy Ward Playground is today – fell in 1844 and the rest in 1863. Two other magnificent Brookline trees were lost to disease more recently: the Olmsted Elm (center), on the grounds of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, and the St. Aidan’s Beech (right), adjacent to the former St. Aidan’s Catholic Church and newer housing on the grounds.

Ken Liss is president of the Brookline Historical Society.



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