Column, Tree Talk

Baxter beauties, neighborly sights

They are living about three blocks apart and are almost twins in size and shape. One is on Maple Street (between Pine and Baxter) in Rutland and the other is on Baxter (between Library and Park). There is actually a third one at the corner of Pine and Maple but it is smaller and not as easy to see.

All three are silver maples, all are a living history to both Rutland City and H. Henry Baxter, and all defy the conventional thinking about what a yard tree should be. What makes these trees interesting is their sheer size compared to others living in the area. They are huge silver maples approaching 4 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall and sitting right in the middle of the front yards of each house. They literally dwarf the houses that they share space with.

By Gary Salmon
Two large Silver Maple trees grow in the front yards of homes on Maple Street and Baxter street in downtown Rutland.

Of further interest is where they came from — planted or homegrown — and that’s where the history lesson starts. This area of Rutland is in a flood plain and silver maples are native to flood plains so they could have gotten a start and just kept growing. On the other hand, there are many other silver maples around the city that have been planted as yard trees so that might have been a source as well.

Much of this area has an agricultural history. Successful local businessman H. Henry Baxter and his brother John owned almost 300 acres of farmland in this area in the late 1800s. It was part of what was then called Maple Grove Farm which raised sheep and race horses. The land eventually became the Rutland Country Club (brother John’s holdings) and part of a rapidly expanding Rutland City. By the turn of the century, houses were established and many more would follow. Baxter Street, Baxter Park, and the Rutland Jewish Center (originally the H. H. Baxter Memorial Library) stand today as testaments to this Rutland resident.

Back to the maples. While they are very large trees, silver maples are extremely fast-growing and can attain great size in less than a century. Silver maples are able to withstand flooding which aided them considerably during the 1927 and 1947 floods that devastated houses in this area. Being in a “lower” section of Rutland also helped them survive the nor-icane of a few years ago plus more recent wind events.

A tree growing as a yard tree should complement its surroundings including the yard, house, and street. These trees continue on as healthy specimens but they have run out of growing space and their sheer size focuses attention on the tree and not on the house barely sharing yard space with them. Are they state record size for silver maple? The current state record lives in Brattleboro and is over two feet larger in diameter. And as for the case of how they originated — they both are growing right in the middle of a front yard suggesting that they were likely planted and date to when the house was built.

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