Vancouver Icons: Hollow Tree

Comments 2 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Hollow Tree in Stanley Park has been the main focus of tourist photo ops for the last century. Images of cyclists, couples, and even cars (inside the tree) come up often in my search of the Vancouver Public Library and Vancouver City Archives. However, when I search for recent photos, like in the Miss604 Flickr Pool, there are far fewer results. Perhaps it’s no longer considered an anomaly or it’s just in a part of the park (along Stanley Park Drive) that locals don’t reach often. Whatever the case, I still wanted to profile our Hollow Tree as a Vancouver Icon:

(Left) 1923 – Archives item# CVA 677-153. (Right) 1902 – Archives item# St Pk P69.

(Left) 1900s – VPL Number: 5487 & VPL Number 7185. Photographer: Philip Timms.

The Hollow Tree has existed on the west side of what is now Stanley Park for approximately 1,000 years. When the city of Vancouver was created in 1886 from the tiny logging village of Granville, the first elected city council made a motion to create Stanley Park at the first city council meeting. Shortly after, a road was constructed around the perimeter of the new park and it ran directly to the Hollow Tree and was curved around it. The Hollow Tree soon became a ‘must see’ attraction for visitors and new arrivals to the city, who invariably were urged to take the trip around Stanley Park. [Heritage Vancouver, 2009]

Hollow tree tourists Stanley Park's Old Hollow Tree
2005 & 2006. Photo credit: mag3737 & SqueakyMarmot on Flickr

By 2008 the tree, which was as crooked as ever having withstood the elements (including a few fires) for centuries, was in shambles. There was a great debate about its future — and who would foot the bill to keep it around.

so they're going to save the tree
2008. Photo credit: glockkid on Flickr

Not much tree left Metal beams and wires
2008. Photo credit: John Bollwitt on Flickr

A slow degradation of the structural support of the soils at the base of the tree was exacerbated by the strain from the extreme wind storms of 2006 which devastated Stanley Park, and currently the tree lists at an 11-degree angle. The Vancouver Park Board, who manage Stanley Park, determined that the Tree presented a falling hazard to park visitors in its 2007 condition, and in April 2008, the removal of the tree was approved by the Board.

The Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society developed a conceptual design and performed much of the preliminary work to right the Hollow Tree and to brace it in perpetuity for future generations of Vancouver residents and visitors alike to enjoy with the same sense of wonderment, awe, and humbling perspective that 120 years of previous visitors have drawn from the Hollow Tree. After a great effort, as of December 31, 2009, the stabilization was completed. [Save The Hollow Tree]

Although merely a shell of what it once was, the Hollow Tree was propped up in 2011 and it stands tall today.

After a two-year campaign to raise the $215,000 privately to save the tree, hydraulic jacks were brought in to straighten it and place it on its new foundation. [CTV BC]

at the hollow tree DSC02112
2011. Photo credit: phandcp & LexStoy on Flickr

For more information about the Hollow Tree’s history and how it still stands today, watch a full length documentary online thanks to the Knowledge Network.

Other Vancouver Icons posts include: Hotel Europe, Lions Gate Bridge Lions, LightShed, Granville Bridge, 217.5 Arc x 13′, Canoe Bridge, Vancouver Block, Bloedel Conservatory, Centennial Rocket, Canada Place, Old Courthouse/Vancouver Art Gallery, Dominion Building, Science World, Gastown Steam Clock, SFU Burnaby, Commodore Lanes, Siwash Rock, Kitsilano Pool, White Rock Pier, Main Post Office, Planetarium Building, Lord Stanley Statue, Vancouver Library Central Branch, Victory Square, Digital Orca, The Crab Sculpture, Girl in Wetsuit, The Sun Tower, The Hotel Vancouver, The Gassy Jack Statue, The Marine Building, and The Angel of Victory. Should you have a suggestion for the Vancouver Icons series please feel free to leave a note in the comments. It should be a thing, statue, or place that is very visible and recognizable to the public.

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2 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. BrookeMonday, February 25th, 2013 — 10:20am PST

    When I first moved to BC I visited Stanley Park and gazed in wonder at the hollow tree and all the ferns and foliage. I’ve been here a long time now and I pass by lots of beautiful old trees and verdant forests without blinking— I’ve become a bit complacent.

    Thanks for the reminder of what a stunning place we live in!

  2. Jacqui GrahamFriday, September 12th, 2014 — 1:00pm PDT

    I grew up in North Vancouver in the ’50s. Stanley Park was my family’s favourite spot for Sunday drives, picnics, and visits to the zoo. I loved visiting the hollow tree, a reminder of bygone forests. Public support for the preservation of this landmark has been heartening, but so much damage has occurred over the years – including yesterday’s devastating fire. The time has come to preserve the Hollow Tree’s dignity and let it go.

    PS: the link to the online documentary does not work.

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