Where did the Elm Trees Go?


This is a modern satellite photo of the same area from 2013. The elm trees died off during the 60s and the businesses along Brewerton Road, with their large parking lots, just emphasize the stark emptiness of the street. The red rectangle near the bottom center of the photo is a Pizza Hut restaurant. It is in the middle of what used to be a large garen north of the old Kirsch homestead on Brewerton Road.





This photo from October 15, 1951 show the stately elm trees lining the main road.




"The disease, officials said, is so virulent that it is capable of wiping out the elm tree just as the chestnut blight fungus destroyed almost all Central New York chestnut trees."

The Syracuse American, October 15, 1933

















"Their great branches form a cathedral roof over the streets; without them, the houses would be bare and ugly, property values much lower"

The Post Standard, December 21, 1951


Gone But Not Forgotten

Revised June 14, 2013


In the mid 1950s the movies only cost 35Ę and you got two movies, some cartoons and sometimes even a drawing for door prizes during the intermission. For a total of 50Ę you could get the movies, a bag of popcorn and a candy bar. Parents could buy a whole afternoon of peace and quiet around the house for a mere half-dollar per kid.


Walking up Kirsch Drive, on the way to the Hollywood movie theater, there was a choice of paths to be taken upon reaching Roxboro Road. One path continued on to Brewerton Road and then a half block to the theater. The other path led south on Roxboro and then up a private road that came out on Brewerton between Cam-Nelís Tavern and Ben Franklinís department store, which was the building next to the theater.


Continuing up Kirsch, we would pass by the elm trees on Brewerton Road. In those early years, there were at least four or five very tall elm trees on the west side of Brewerton Road, between Kirsch Drive and the movie theater. They were there but we didnít really notice them - not until they were gone. I donít remember the elms actually being cut down but by 1960 they were gone. It must have been quite an operation, probably requiring the temporary re-routing of traffic on Brewerton road. All we knew was that, one week they were there and the next they were gone.


The road now looked empty, wide open, something was definitely missing. Without the tall overlapping canopies of leaves, the summer sun poured down on us. Where those tall majestic giants had once stood there were now only stumps - very large stumps - the largest stumps we had ever seen. At the time we didnít know where the trees had gone or why, but we quickly incorporated the stumps into our weekly trips back and forth to the movie theater. Racing from stump to stump we would try to squeeze as many of us as possible on a single stump. Usually four or five of us could fit onto one of the freshly cut stumps.


It was an ignominious end. Those ancient shade trees had been struck down by a lowly bark beetle. The once stately elm trees whose high leafy canopies, had shaded the travelers on the old Cicero Plank Road and had observed the birth and growth of Mattydale for decades had become the playground for a childrenís game of musical stumps. Eventually, even the stumps themselves disappeared but the memory of those beautiful elm trees still lives on. 



The Elms Trees Along the Old Plank Road