A Baylor School landmark that came crashing down Monday night could still have a purpose on campus.
Grounds superintendent Lance Parker said the timber from what was believed to be the oldest northern red oak tree in Hamilton County might be used to make benches and tabletops for the campus, although no official decision has been made.
The 107-foot-tall tree fell Monday night onto the Roddy Performing Arts Center, causing minimal structural damage that required a class be moved Tuesday.
Parker estimated the tree to be 178 years old. Archeological records indicate a Union cavalry brigade camped near the tree following the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.
A measurement of the tree taken 10 years ago found its circumference to be 18 feet, 4 inches, earning it the distinction of largest red oak in Hamilton County and the second largest in the state, according to a news release from Baylor.
"Obviously, over time, old age crept up on it and it finally fell," Parker said. "It is sad."
The tree had been infected for several years, and Parker said he was planning to cut it down this winter.
The sheltering oak meant a lot to the campus, students and former students, said the school's director of external affairs Barbara Kennedy.
City of Chattanooga Forester Gene Hyde pointed to the Bonny Oaks Willow Oak near the intersection of Bonny Oaks Drive and Jersey Pike as one of the few remaining historically significant oaks in the county.
That tree is on county land once belonging to Cherokee Indians that historians and arborists believe dates back to the pre-Civil War era.
"These historical trees are a connection with the past," Hyde said, "They're a connection with American history and it really sparks people's imaginations."
Parker said Baylor officials twice tried unsuccessfully to clone the tree.
"It was truly a monster tree," he said. "It was a very big part of the campus."
Contact staff writer David W. Cobb at email@example.com or 423-757-6249.