Tree Lovers Decry Loss of Magnolia

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An old magnolia tree was cut down at 3017 N St. NW. on Oct. 17. Georgetowner photo.

One of the two tall magnolia trees at 3017 N St. NW was taken down last month after it was determined to be unviable. The action prompted criticism by neighbors of homeowner David Hudgens.

“A shame and a crime,” said Betsy Emes, president of Trees for Georgetown, a committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. “These magnificent twin trees were grossly disfigured by pruning resulting in the death of one. The second will probably follow. Why didn’t the homeowner just get a permit for removal in the first place? Yes, it would have been expensive, but at least it would have been legal.”

“Each tree on this block has been replaced in the last 20 or 25 years,” said Hudgens, who lived next door for years to the previous homeowner, his friend Yolande Betbeze Fox, Miss America 1951.

A Georgetowner since 1997, Hudgens talked about ginkgo trees in the sidewalks in front of his house, which were cracked and had to be replaced, as well as the problem with secondary growth on trees which can cause their demise. “The front wall was being pushed by secondary growth and needed a root dam,” he said.

“The neighborhood is extremely upset by the excessive ‘pruning’ of the magnolias and by the Urban Forestry Administration’s assurances that this wouldn’t impair the viability of the trees, or at the very least that Mr. Hudgens would be fined,” said Jim Wilcox, the advisory neighborhood commissioner whose district includes the street in question. “Has UFA acted properly? Will UFA let Mr. Hudgens’ actions go unpunished?”

I’ve lived in Georgetown 40 years and loved those huge stunning heritage magnolias,” said next-door neighbor Micheline Klagsbrun. “The final cutting-down of this extraordinary living tree is just the latest of several steps taken by the owner of 3017 N Street to destroy trees on this block in the course of a year of constant remodeling. In January, the same owner got away with removing three apparently healthy trees from the public tree boxes in front of his house. He had requested a permit to remove the largest of the three trees, a mature Zelkova. The permit was denied. A few days later, all three trees were removed. The excuse given by the UFA (furnished at our request) was so flimsy as to be laughable.”

The N Street home, built in 1794 and designated a National Historic Landmark, has been called the Beall-Laird-Peter House. It is undergoing a major renovation. “One hundred years from now, this will be a preserved structure,” Hudgens said.

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