Let me be clear: no one is proposing that the 80-year-old (or thereabouts) monkey puzzle tree that stands at the top of the Spanish Stairs should be removed.
But as the old Elks Lodge begins its transformation into a McMenamins beer and entertainment mecca and the stairs are refurbished, there is an emerging discussion about that tree. The native of Chile, Araucaria araucana was a popular ornamental in Tacoma and Seattle in the 20s and 30s.
At a meeting with the Landmarks Commission Wednesday, historic preservation consultant Michael Sullivan said, “I don’t think we have a feeling one way or another.”
And Mike McMenamin added: “No one has a strong thing going one way or another.”
But the tree obscures the dominant facade of the building, even rubbing against it on the upper floors. And it shades, even overwhelms, the stairs. I’d kind of like to see the building itself, sans tree. But like Sullivan and McMenamin, I’m ambivalent.
At the same time, it is pretty cool and has been there as long as most locals can recall. Photos in the Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library show no tree in the 20s but a rather short specimen appears in the early 1940’s.
Ramie Pierce, the city’s urban forester, said she has not heard any requests to remove the tree which stands in the right of way that would have been the end of S. 7th Street.
“People speak rather fondly of it,” she said. “I think in this case the community would have to weigh in.”
So, weigh in. I’ll include some responses when I write about the fabulous, funky monkey puzzle tree next week.
(And talk about good timing. Exit 133 and Kits Merryman below report that a veritable forest of tree experts will be in town next week for the 31st annual training conference of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.)