Just Old Trees | Documentary on the Henry E. Dosch Estate

By David-Paul Hedberg ::


James Krzmarzick’s “Just Old Trees” is a documentary based on my March 2017 Urban Forestry workshop with the Hillsdale Tree Team. I had always wanted to delve deeper into the history of the Dosch Estate, and when the Hillsdale Team requested a workshop, I suggested we do a walk and talk of the nine Heritage Trees on the Dosch property. Doing some archival work at Oregon Historical Society, I located an old 1970s PSU history seminar paper from Ken Hawkins (who now works at National Archives in D.C.) on the property and background of Henry E. Dosch. Dosch was a fascinating figure: a German immigrant, civil war veteran, pony express rider, Portland merchant, Director of Exhibits at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, orchard experimenter, and organizer of the Oregon Horticultural Society.

Villa Eichenhof in 2017, image by Dave Hedberg

After going through some records in the Henry Dosch Papers at Multnomah County Library, I contacted the property owner, Jim Driscoll, who is also Henry’s great-grandson. Jim met with me and not only shared the 130-year-old family story of the property but added context to the nine heritage trees and about nine other remnants of Henry’s horticultural experiments with fruit tree grafting. I then located several of Henry’s publications on fruit and nut tree grafting as well as his reports to the State Board of Horticulture, including a note about an old apple tree planted in about 1850. The Oregon State Heritage Tree Commission recognizes this as the oldest grafted apple tree in the west.

After leading a walk with about 50 attendees, James Krzmarzick who is a student at Northwest Documentary approached me with the idea of making my presentation into a documentary for his final project. I helped revise content for him and interviewed Jim Driscoll again. Talking with Jim, we learned more about how he kept the property in the family and was able to save the house and trees by developing 23 homes on the parcel in the 1980s. It’s a great example of how historic preservation and development can work together; too often they are pitted against each other. James and I realized that without the historic context of Henry Dosch and his great-grandson Jim Driscoll, that this property was just an old house and these were just old trees.