Newburgh in Orange County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Balmville Tree
Circumference 25 feet, 5 inches
Diameter 90 inches
The Tree is less older than the American public. A 19th century fable held that the tree sprang from the riding crop of George Washington, who made his headquarters Newburgh in 1783 — 84. But the tree began life 33 years before Washington and 9 years before the birth of his mother Mary Ball Washington.
Situated in a glen at the intersection of what were three old Indian trails and nurtured by a plentiful water supply from the hill that rises to the west of it, the tree grew quickly and well, achieving in its prime a height of more than 85 feet and a massive circumference of possibly 25 feet. The core sample indicated that by the time Washington rode by the tree, it was already huge. Eastern Cottonwoods (poputus deltoides) are indigenous to North America and grow rapidly for 75 years or so. Most of them died before they
The Tree defied all odds by continuing to grow into the 19th century. The people who lived around Newburgh in those days mistakenly thought it was a Balm of Gilead, the exotic hybrid popular related to the cottonwood. Hence it was call the “Balm Tree” and the settlement that grew up around it, Balmville. The hamlet of Balmville began to appear on the maps in the late 18th century. During the Revolution, there was a tavern near the Tree whose patrons regularly gathered under the shade to the sip their brews, denounced King George III and his taxes and talk about the course of the war.
As Balmville grew in the 19th century welcoming such nationally famous figures as landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing, there was much lore about the tree. One story was that when Matthew Vassar was down and out, he slept under the Tree and got such a good rest that he was able to continue his trip to Poughkeepsie, establish a brewery and acquired enough wealth to establish college of note in 1865. By the late 19th century the Tree was loved by the City of Newburgh residents. They began a Sunday afternoon tradition of taking a walk out to the tree. The Balmville Promenade continued well into the 20th century.
At the behest of the Tree’s admirers, the State Environmental Commissioner Ogden R. Read decided in 1976 to make the tree the first individually protected tree in New York State history. The state then created a permanent easement around the Tree so that no excavating can be done within 150 feet of it without state permission.
In 1995, a patch of roadway just south of the Tree was sealed off and a fieldstone wall was constructed to protect the Tree and what had become the state’s smallest forest. Since all trees lose limbs from time to time, a custom-built steel pole was erected immediately west of the Tree. The steel guide wires mitigate the weight of the limbs and give them their own drop zone. The money for this was raised privately by the friends of the Tree locally and from around the United States. The friends are too numerous to be listed here. The State Department Environment Conservation agreed to provide feeding, maintenance and general care of the site in perpetuity.
Erected 1959 by Goudy Wildlife Club of Newburgh.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Historic Trees marker series.
Location. 41° 31.951′ N, 74° 0.727′ W. Marker is in Newburgh, New York, in Orange County. Marker is at the intersection of Balmville Road and Commonweath Avenue & River Road, in the median on Balmville Road. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 83 Balmville Road, Newburgh NY 12550, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Orange County Veterans Memorial (approx. 1.1 miles away); Gidney Grist Mill (approx. 1.2 miles Gettysburg Address (approx. 1.3 miles away); Andrew J. Downing (approx. 1.6 miles away); Newburgh's Neighborhood Preservation Began on This Street (approx. 1.7 miles away); Mount Gulian (approx. 1.8 miles away); Montgomery Street Station (approx. 2 miles away); Court House (approx. 2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Newburgh.
Also see . . .
1. The Balmville Tree - Wikipedia. (Submitted on March 28, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States.)
2. The Balmville Tree - All Experts. (Submitted on March 28, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States.)
3. The Balmville Tree. (Submitted on March 28, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States.)
Categories. • Colonial Era • Horticulture & Forestry • Landmarks • Natural Features • Notable Persons • Notable Places • Patriots & Patriotism • Science & Medicine • War, US Revolutionary •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 21, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States. This page has been viewed 1,893 times since then and 45 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on March 21, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on March 28, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States. 7. submitted on March 21, 2010, by Clifton Patrick of Chester, NY, United States. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photo of the shuttered house and carriage house at 83 Balmville Rd. as mentioned on Plaque II. • Can you help?