By JoAnne Hermens ::
In Southeast Portland amidst modest houses with pleasant green yards, stands a 90 foot tall and 90 foot wide black walnut tree. An aerial view shows its canopy reaching across 77th Avenue, away from the two story white wooden house on its lot. The building was erected in 1924, already supplied with a nice sidewalk and planting strip between it and the curb of the graded street, all provided by the developer of the surrounding “Chicago Addition.” Less than one block away, easily seen down 77th Ave., the Mt. Scott trolley line rumbled past on Woodstock Street, providing quick access to Portland. Fresh, healthy Bull Run water arrived through pipes directly to the home. Not far away could be seen orchards and fields, a reminder of the farming heritage of the 320 acre homestead purchased in 1855 by Isaac Williams for $1.25 an acre, on which this tree now grows.
Black walnut trees, useful for wood and tasty nuts, thrived in the Willamette and Yamhill valleys. Plantings abounded, under the encouragement of early pioneer William Barlow at his homestead, with agriculturist J.C. Cooper’s guidance in experimental plots, and by school superintendent, O.M. Plummer, who arranged for plantings in all public schools in 1907 to commemorate Washington’s Birthday. Six heritage trees in Portland are black walnuts and many others are reported around the city. Salem state hospital has fifty-two on its grounds, which are about one hundred years old.
Tree #31 represents a history of a tree genus that, like itself, stands tall and proud.