Chester’s historic tree saved, sidewalk nixed

A sidewalk planned for Harrowgate Road threatened the existence of one historic tree, listed on the National Register of Historic Trees.  The historic tree and a number of surrounding trees shaded the meeting place of civic groups in the early 1900s.

The sidewalk would have been constructed close enough to kill the tree, which the Woman’s Club of Chester worked hard to be added to the national collection of historic trees.
Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle pushed for a project that will provide an extension of the sidewalk on Osborne Road. Chesterfield’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) added a short section of sidewalk on Harrowgate Road as well.

“There were differing opinions as to whether the sidewalk in that location would damage the tree,” Jaeckle said.” I told transportation that a piece of sidewalk in that location was not worth dividing the community and to drop that portion of the project.”

The tree(s) were once located in the yard of the “Mother of Chester,” (Maud Hurt) and her husband, Dr. and Mrs. A.J Hurt, which provided their yard with shade by the canopy of trees at the corner of Old Hundred Road (then Route10) as a place to cool off during a streetcar stop in Chester.

In this century the community still enjoys the trees on Harrowgate Road, but now the mantle of responsibility has passed to Commonwealth Photography and its owners Julia and Jeff Bowman and they protect the trees like they planted them themselves.

“When we purchased the property, part of what drew me to it were the beautiful trees. Little did we know how important they were to the community,” Ms. Bowman said. “I can envision people gathered under it for shade in the heat of the summer. I often wonder what discussion have been held under the old oak. The thought of possible detrimental construction made me sad. That tree has withstood many-a-storm, drought, ice and community growth. The beautiful maples, ‘Chester’s Trees,’ are a monument in Chester. The oak and maples are community monuments. Ones that I feel should be preserved and protected to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Chester, once a hub of transportation (four railroads, three intersecting  just east of the village), became a gathering place for conversations of politics, farming and gossip.

Arline McGuire, former Chesterfield County Treasurer and the member of the Chester’s Woman’s Club, helped the community get the historic designation.

“The trees are Chester’s living evidence of the vision that the Hurts had for Chesterfield County. The Hurts led the village in organizing and working together to bring about improvements that would benefit everyone in the community during their time and future generations,” said Arline McGuire, former Treasurer of Chesterfield County and a Woman’s club member.

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