Winslow Homer's 1866 painting, "Croquet on the Lawn," currently in Chicago Museum of Fine Arts, shows two beech trees in front of his family house in Belmont, Massachusetts.
As long as anyone can remember, there have been two beautiful, huge Copper Beech trees on the lawn of the famous Homer House, which is now the Women's Club in Belmont. They were both growing there in 1866 in Winslow Homer's series of croquet paintings.
But, now there is just one. People paying this year's 2012 taxes at Town Hall across the street, were shocked to see that venerable landmark being taken down. Huge limbs were loaded into a Tree Services truck by a special crane much taller than the tree or the house.
A stump, 7 feet in diameter (21 feet in circumference) is all that remains of one of the beloved trees and, surprisingly, there is no rot in the 150-year-old base. The other beech had one decayed trunk pruned away.
Unfortunately, trees do not live forever. Eventually they develop cracks and rot and become hollow. The growth of a particular mushroom fungus, growing at the base of both trees, was a sign of trouble brewing inside.
Some History About Belmont's Ancient Beech Trees
A story told is that there used to be a little man who came around each year with European Beech seedlings in his wagon. He made grafted Copper Beeches, and also seedlings of the purple European Beech. The Victorians loved them, and so they grow all over town. Fortunately, Belmont still has several ancient beeches remaining, just not as famous at Homer's croquet on the lawn paintings.
The yellowwood trees behind the Women's Club are first generation seedlings of a National Champion Tree actually planted by Winslow Homer, himself, just across the street. It was the largest Champion Yellowwood in the whole United States in the 1990's, but unfortunately it had to be removed a few years ago. It was all hollow rotten inside.