The sound of the Sturtevant Oak being cut down Monday in front of Illinois College’s Sturtevant Hall were heard by alumni and college officials.
The tree was planted less than 10 feet from Sturtevant Hall over a century ago, and the main trunk had curved to less than 5 feet from the south Sturtevant Tower.
In addition, a large branch had grown at a sharp angle away from the tree, and was hanging over a sidewalk, which is why college officials chose to chop it down.
Dozens of alumni and faculty watched and shared their memories. Betsy Kennedy, a 1973 graduate of Illinois College, talks about the iconic swing that swung from the tree.
“People have cried on that swing, they’ve been engaged on that swing, probably big breakups on that swing,” Kennedy says. “It’s just part of the fabric of going to college here.”
Jen Haschmeyer, a 2008 IC grad, says she and her husband both attended Illinois College together. She also has fond memories of the tree.
“My husband and I actually both attended Illinois College together. We came here as high school sweethearts so we spent a lot of time on this swing between classes, just hanging on the quad with friends. We got engaged here on the quad and came back for our engagement pictures and wedding pictures,” says Haschmeyer.
“It’s really sad because it’s always been a part of IC as long as anyone around here can remember.”
Concerns over safety for both pedestrians and nearby Sturtevant Hall led the college to make the decision to cut the tree down rather than add further supports.
In an effort to save the tree, a cable had been installed to attach the hanging branch more securely to the main trunk, but this only further complicated the already-leaning problem.
Alana McKean, the arboretum manager for Starhill Forest Arboretum at IC, says everything was done to prolong the life of the Sturtevant oak.
“Lightning protection, we’ve air spaded the soil to de-compact it, we’ve done everything we can but at some point the tree has to come down,” McKean says. “With as many dead limbs as there are in the canopy, the time is right to do it.”
The historic swing is being moved to a different tree on the campus, and the college plans on keeping most of the wood and re-purposing it. The college also hopes to clone the Sturtevant oak.