The former vacation spot for President Herbert Hoover in Shenandoah National Park that was in danger of collapsing under the weight of an oak is now free from its clutches.
Before presidents had Camp David, Hoover vacationed at the Brown House in Rapidan Camp. The house was built around the tree. It had a hole in the deck for it, and part of the roof was cut away to accommodate it. But 85 years later, it was a big problem.
Rangers watched Wednesday as the historic tree, hundreds of years old, was removed from the Brown House.
"When they took the first limb out, because I'm a very sentimental person, I teared up a little bit,” said interpretive park ranger Patressa Kearns.
Kearns says they really had no other choice. "It was causing the roof to buckle and causing maybe the wall, the load-bearing wall, to buckle, so it would have done more damage as time went by."
But getting the tree out was no easy task for crews. "The deck was built around it, and then the roof was grooved around the tree where the tree went by the roof, and through the years the tree had gotten extremely large, and it was beginning to shift the cottage, and the front door wouldn't open anymore,” said John Shifflett, who owns the tree removal company that did the job.
The tree was so close it actually grew into the roof of the house, carving a rut into the living wood. The crew needed a crane to remove the tree in pieces, but it was difficult to even get one near the house.
"We were limited to crane size because the bridge crossing Rapidan stream here, we had a weight limit,” Shifflett said.
The stump of the tree was below the deck, causing even more problems.
"We had to crawl under the porch and deal with that, considering we watched two snakes go under there this morning when we got here,” Shifflett said.
Kearns says the crew did a fantastic job, and the new look will just take some getting used to. "It used to be when you came down here it was dark and it was wonderful, and it's still beautiful, but yeah there's nothing shading that house anymore,” she said.
The crew was able to successfully remove the tree without damaging the house at all. The area will be back open to the public starting Thursday.
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