In Lee Manchester’s fall 2014 Wagner Magazine story, “Rooted in Grymes Hill,” he established that the 38 London plane trees around the Sutter Oval were not, contrary to popular legend, planted to honor Wagner’s first female graduates.

Instead, he discovered, 20 red maples were donated to honor the women, and they were planted behind Main Hall in 1936.

Now, Manchester has discovered the real story behind the planting of the trees around the Oval.

Students sitting on Sutter Oval in front of Main Hall with a tree in the foreground.
One of the 38 London plane trees, planted around Wagner College's Sutter Oval in April 1932, frames this view of Main Hall.

In the June 1932 issue of the Wagner College Bulletin, an article entitled “Campus Plantings” notes that the senior class had donated 38 plane trees to the College.

The article reports on the celebration of the planting, held on April 13. Martin Dietrich ’32, class president, and Herman Brezing, Wagner president, gave talks, and “the first tree was planted by use of the shovel used to break ground for the new building.” This “new building” was Main Hall, which had been completed only two years earlier.

The article adds a bit more arboreal history: “Two beautiful Koster blue spruce trees” were planted on either side of Main Hall’s entrance, funded by a donation from George J. Fox of Buffalo, New York. Other gifts funded the planting of “sixteen small evergreens … numerous flowering shrubs … [and] a large eighteen-foot circular flower bed with gravel path approach … on the entrance side of the oval, near the street.” It’s doubtful there are still any signs of these plants in today’s landscaping, more than 80 years later. But it’s interesting to note the role that donations played in beautifying campus during its early years.

— Laura Barlament, Editor

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