Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Arrowhead Inn, Part 2: The Pine Trees

I returned to the Arrowhead Inn site on 177th Street and Haven Avenue in Washington Heights, NYC. The Arrowhead Inn was once a famous destination in the countryside of upper Manhattan for the wealthy set. 

After the Arrowhead Inn closed in the early 1920s, apartment houses were built on the block. Then, the construction of the George Washington Bridge and surrounding highways split the lot down the middle on a diagonal line. When I visited the site last week, I noticed the pine trees growing along that diagonal line.


Seeing the trees inspired the romantic idea in me that the pines were the same trees that grew around the Arrowhead Inn, and that they survived and were protected against the disruptions of the land over the years.

If you look at map showing the apartment buildings in the late 1920s, you can see there is open space in the middle of the block, just where the trees now stand:

Block bounded by 178th and 179th Street, Haven Ave and Northern Ave (now Cabrini Blvd.)
To find out if the trees were old-timers from the Arrowhead Inn days, I needed to know how old they are. And to figure out how old the trees are, I needed some tools: a measuring tape to measure the circumference of the tree and needles from the pine to identify the species.


The trees are Red Pine (also called Norway Pine) which are native to the area, though I don't see them much around the neighborhood. Red Pine needles grow in bundles of two, and they are rounded on one side and flat on the other.

To figure out the age, I used the tape measure to find the circumference of the biggest tree at 54" from the ground and then divided that number by pi to get the diameter of the trunk. 

The next step knowing the growth rate for the tree. Trees grow at different rates depending on species, and the Red Pine's growth rate is 5.5. 

The equation is: circumference ÷ pi × growth rate = age.

Doing the calculations was easy enough, and I was able to figure out that the largest tree in the park is about 82 years old. 

Eighty-two years ago from today (2016) was 1934. The George Washington Bridge opened for traffic in 1931. All the pines in the park are younger than the bridge. 

And that means I have to give up my romantic idea that these pines trees were once standing next to the famous Arrowhead Inn of Washington Heights and saw celebrities, politicians, and the wealthy of the New York City riding uptown to dine. Sigh. 

But, I don't have to give up the romance completely. The seeds of pine trees typically scatter in a fairly close range to the parent tree, and it's likely this little stand of pine trees are descendants from ones who grew here during the hey-day of the Arrowhead Inn.

Sources are here.

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