A piece of history falls

“I have a story for you,” she said. “Lopez is about to lose a beloved piece of its history,” she said, “and I’m the one responsible.”

The call was from Annie Albritton, Lopezian and owner of Friendly Isle Building. “It’s a tree,” she added. “But not just any tree. It’s the village Madrona.”

Standing tall at 182 Lopez Road, the beautiful tree was quietly wreaking havoc. Several years ago, Albritton had noticed some problems with the building.

“The stairs were being lifted and twisted and had to be replaced,” she said, “and the report from an inspection of the building’s crawlspace was disheartening.” Massive, twisted roots were invading the space; door frames and latches began to shift.

“The tree was causing damage to the building by simply looking for space to grow,” Albritton lamented.

The writing was on the wall. The Madrona had to come down. On May 5, it did.

The tree’s history was an innocent one. In 1986, a year after the building at the corner of Lopez and Village Road was completed, a friend of Albritton’s noticed a small sapling growing near the steps. The decision to keep it seemed like a good one at the time. The tree grew quickly, as Madronas do and soon the bark-shedding deciduous tree was looking older than its years, offering visitors to the businesses it shielded welcome relief from the sun. It soon became a landmark. And not just any landmark, but a historical one at that.

According to Albritton, when the Lopez Village Planning and Review Committee was creating a landscape plan for the downtown area, they identified several Heritage Trees, most of which were old homestead fruit trees.

“Curiously, the Friendly Isle Building Madrona made the list,” she said. “I suppose, at only 34 years old it was really a faux heritage tree, but it made the list just the same.

Even a historic designation, however, couldn’t save the verdant landmark. As well-loved as it was, its demise was inevitable.

Patt Moore, the owner of Swal’lech Construction also housed in the Friendly Isle Building, sees the tree’s passing as unfortunate but necessary.

“It’s been here since we’ve been here,” she offered. “It’s been a part of our day-to-day for years. And yes, it was beautiful but there was no choice. It had to come down. I know a lot of people felt attached to the tree, but the building’s foundation was being threatened. It’s sad but it had to go.”

Albritton wants the community to know that the decision to take the tree down was not made lightly. To ensure the 30-something-year-old Madrona remains in the community, T.J. Anderson, well known Lopez wood artist, will repurpose the wood to create some one-of-a-kind items that will be available at Chimera Gallery.

The village Madrona at the corner of Lopez and Village Roads may be missed but it will definitely be remembered.

contributed photo/A memorial to the Madrona