Monday, May 14, 2007

No. 24 - Oak Tree

Oak Tree
Former location: Louise Avenue, 210 feet south of Ventura Boulevard
Declared: 9/6/63

In its estimated 1,000-year lifespan, this giant oak tree grew to more than seven stories tall with a trunk twenty-four feet in diameter and a 150-foot canopy.

The tree, a quercus agrifolia, was called the Lang Oak, named after a local rancher. It was also known as the Encino Oak for the community in which it stood. (In Spanish, one of the meanings of encino is ‘oak’, so make of that name what you will.)

So the tree survived a whole millennium, making it through every natural disaster known to Southern California (and there are a lot of them). Even developers in the 1950s, a 1980s car crash, and a bacterial infection couldn’t do it in. Unfortunately, a giant El Niño rainstorm on February 7, 1998, could (do it in, that is). Uprooted it was, smashing a couple of cars in the process.

If you go to the site, you can see a big hunk of the Lang Oak on display. Not only does it provide an inspiring reminder of the millennium the mighty oak stood rooted where it had since a century before the Norman Conquest, but is also provides a convenient nook to stash your empty iced tea and beer bottles.

Oak Tree

See Will Campbell’s webpage for some seriously dedicated Lang Oak coverage.

One more thing. The Lang Oak has been the only HCM to be designated in Encino. But just down the street is Los Encinos State Historic Park, which is a state landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Anyone know why it hasn’t made city monument status, yet?

The black and white photo is from Los Angeles's Department of City Planning website.

Up next: General Phineas Banning Residence


gc said...

Darn that El Nino!

Michael said...

I love seeing the old picture of the oak tree. Where did you get it?

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Hi, Michael. The shot comes from the L.A. Dept of City Planning website. Go to the links at the right of this blog. "The List" will take you to the department's roster of HCMs with pictures of each, including photos of the landmarks not around any more (like this oak). It's been a huge help to me.

Rosemary West said...

I stopped at this site today. It is totally neglected now, with weeds obscuring the path, the benches barely visible. There is a narrow trail beaten into the brush, probably by jaywalkers who cross here rather then going a little farther to use the crosswalk at the corner. Otherwise, the only sign of human attention is an American flag someone has attached to the old signboard.

shawn said...

awwwww this is so sad.

Jeanne d'Angeles said...

I am suspicious about the ending of this tree. Thanks so much for providing a picture of the tree while it was alive, btw! (It would be nice to see this living picture in the Wikipedia listing for this tree, also known as the Lang Oak, instead of a dead stump slice.)

Back to my suspicions-- I grew up in the neighborhood of that tree and the other oaks that were once in the parking lot of the Encino Town Center Mall. These trees were all in throwing distance of each other. Mature oak trees have lateral root systems that extend for 90 feet in radius, and have been known to fuse together. Since this oak was 1000 years old, I can only imagine how vast its system actually was! So there's every reason to believe that these five trees were actually connected.
[No one has ever made the connection between the "deaths" of these five trees until my stating this now. Even though three of the still-living mall trees were removed in '93 (yes, they were still alive), the Lang Oak was suffering from root fungus at that same time, and fell only less than 5 years later.]

A friend who I often visited in the Mall often complained how the owners were over-watering the oaks in the parking lot-- keeping running hoses on them 24/7. Any arborist will tell you this is not the way to care for an oak. My friend, who owned a business in the mall, also reported to me that the owners originally made it no secret that they wanted to expand the buildings and make more parking spaces. I dunno, it sure seems like we have a motive, Basil... Could it be murder of ancient, mute giants for such a temporary and unaesthetic gain? How is it that five neighboring trees that can survive for a millenium beyond any little human meat body, would all suddenly "die." Could it be Old Lang's heart was broken when he, too, couldn't speak, for the abuses that were unleashed?