100 plus trees grow on the Bronx Grand Concourse. All photos by Katie Holten 2009
Living sculptures that defy gravity, that's how Yann Arthus-Bertrand describes trees in his inspiring environmental documentary Home, released on World Environment Day. Among the many benefits of trees, they slurp up CO2 and dish out O2, crumble into soil, prevent erosion, insulate homes, provide homes for wildlife, make fruit and flowers, and offer beauteous views. We at treehugger embrace them as our moniker. So if one grows in Brooklyn, 100 grow in the Bronx, and Katie Holten lets us hear their tall tales in her living "Tree Museum" along Grand Concourse Boulevard.
Parade with Griffith Morris, great grandson of Louise A. Risse, Grand Concourse designer.
While walking under their leafy canopy near the Cross Bronx Expressway, Irish-born Holten sprouted the idea of celebrating a 4-1/2 mile long stretch of 100 old- and new-growth trees lining the street as a way to commemorate the centennial of the Concourse and its landscaped greenspace. As part of a commissioned art project, her plan presents an oral guide to Bronx history by giving voice to the community about their connections to its ecosystem with stories by current and former residents, from beekeepers to rappers.
Each tree has a sign with a phone number (718-408-2501) and code for listening to brief recordings:
• There's Lurry Boyd who narrates his story at No. 52, a honey locust, about growing strawberries in a local urban garden on 175th Street with a dozen neighbors.
• Dart Westphal, a preservationist, speaks of how residents turned an abandoned gas station and lot into a greenspace.
• Carlos Lazarte recorded the soothing chirps of coquis, Puerto Rican tree frogs, at No. 73 and tree No. 39 features percussionist Jose Ortiz of BombaYo.
• In Poe Park, a London plane tree, No. 75, reveals the former apple orchard's past, where Edgar Allen Poe's former cottage sits and George Clooney's aunt, singer Rosemary Clooney danced at the bandstand.
• Denver Art Museum architect Daniel Libeskind shares at No. 97, a hawthorn, about how as an immigrant kid, the trees reminded him of Poland.
On July 21, there's a tree caring workshop at Poe Park, part of Bronx GreenUp and the Million TreesNYC project. While there, besides admiring the impressive Art Deco architecture, check out the Tree Museum mural at the Andrew Freedman Home, Tree Museum birdhouses by Bronx Writing Academy students, and the green roof on the Bronx County Building.
Members of TATS CRU paint the Tree Museum mural at 1125 Grand Concourse.
Not that far from Manhattan's lollipop sticks in the ground, the Tree Museum is easily accessible by subway near Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Museum of Art. It's free (unlike Joni Mitchell's song of tree museums). The self-guided tours are available through October 12 when the leaves change. After that, the trees stand quietly.