Huge, centuries-old bur oak tree in front of Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake cut down

Stump could become work of art as neighbors refer to massive tree as a landmark


A large bur oak tree – perhaps as many as 400 years old – was cut down Monday in front of the historic Dole mansion in Crystal Lake, leaving about 15 feet of its trunk to be transformed into an art display.

The tree had fallen ill over the past several years, leading to the decision to have the tree cut down by Crystal Lake-based FJR Tree Monday, said Patty Bell, marketing manager at the Dole.

All but about was removed The Dole, at 401 Country Club Drive in Crystal, is the home of the Lakeside Festival each July and has housed a nonprofit arts center dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the property since the early 2000s. The mansion was built in 1860, decades, if not centuries, after the oak began to take root.

The Dole’s manager, the nonprofit Lakeside Legacy Foundation, had the tree’s health assessed by arborists for the past several years and determined the best course of action was to remove it after its health continued declining, Bell said.

“Definitely a lot of people will miss this tree,” Bell said.

Bob Frerichs, who lives behind the mansion property, said he has an oak growing in his yard that sprouted from a seed supplied by the humongous tree cut down Monday.

“Oh my god, that’s a landmark,” Frerichs said.

He watched as some of its huge limbs, the girth of which rivaled the trunks of other large trees, were sliced away by FJR’s Tim Derby in a bucket truck, while the wood was secured in suspension by a chain hanging from a crane that slowly lowered the hefty limbs onto the ground.

Lakeside, which thinks the tree is about 400 years old while FJR arborist Fred Roewer estimated it is at least 200, wants to collaborate with community members about their desires for how to turn the remaining stump into a work of art, like a carving.

Jay LeCoque, a member of the board that governs Lakeside and the Dole, suggested a piece honoring Charles Dole, the businessman who first built the estate on the property after purchasing about 1,000 acres overlooking Crystal Lake in the 1860s.

Another resident whose home is walking distance from The Dole, Nancy DePalma, was given a large branch from the tree she was excited to have to help keep the tree’s memory alive. She plans on turning the wood into a stand from which to hang a wren house.

About 15 feet of the trunk will be kept on the property to transform into an artistic display, LeCoque said.

“A lot of people are attached to that tree,” LeCoque said, adding many have taken photos in their wedding gowns and tuxedos, holding newborns and on anniversaries beneath the oak. “It’s a landmark opportunity for us.”