This tree was planted in the 1920s in its current location along with 4 other live oak trees after being grown in a nursery from acorns given to the owners of the world-renowned Vestal Florist and Nursery at a civic meeting at the turn of the century. As a resident of that neighborhood as a child, William F. „Casey‟ Laman (b. 1913) and his neighborhood friends used to hang out under this tree and remembers when he was a pre-teen that is was a huge tree which indicates that it was probably grown at the turn of the century (this fact is still under research). This tree is estimated to be well over 90 years old and believed to be as old as when the city which was incorporated in 1904 (105 years ago). Because of that historical connection, this tree was designated as the City‟s “Official Tree” on March 19, 1990 and its surrounding land was deeded to the tree which was signed by the Mayor Patrick H. Hays (currently the mayor) and then-Governor Bill Clinton (later former President). The property that was deeded to the tree is called “Live Oak Park” and managed by the City‟s Parks Department. Community activist Audrey Burtrum-Stanley was also involved in helping it become the city tree. At this time, it appears to be the only official city tree in the state.
In addition to its age and owning its own piece of land, this live oak has horticultural significance since its species doesn‟t usually grow so far north. This tree also tells a story of life in the 1920s. It was a significant tree on the edge of the Baring Cross neighborhood where families lived who worked in relation to the railroad and was a safe place for the kids to hang out. The events that the tree witnessed were significant times in our nation‟s history including the depression and the war that shaped their lives. This tree is personally sentimental to city leader Casey Laman. It told „his‟ story of romance in the 1920s, primarily because he would meet his girlfriend, Arlene Ellis (1915-1998) there when she was 12 & he was 14 and who later became his wife of 63 years. He describes the tree and the bench underneath it as „their tree‟ and „their bench‟ and was the place of their first kiss. He became active in politics when he had concerns about the issues in the community such as with the schools and later with the development in the city. And he watched over their tree.
This tree also played a part in the development of the city. William Fewell “Casey” Laman served as NLR Mayor two terms for 16 years: 1958-1972 and 1979-1980 and during both of his terms, he was active to help save this particular tree. The first time it was saved from demolition was in the late 1960‟s when it stood in the way of construction of a drainage ditch for a major storm sewer line from the west. The second time it was saved was when widening improvements were made to Pike Avenue, also while Casey Laman was the mayor, and he redirected the development to avoid the tree. He has been the guardian of this tree and the guardian of his story of romance and family, the story of his Baring Cross neighborhood and his city which the tree symbolizes. This tree not only retains a slice of nature to help reduce our stress and reduce global warming, but also reminds us of the cultural and historical changes that have occurred during its lifetime.
Location: Live Oak Par, North Little Rock
Registration: June 11, 2009
Species: Live Oak