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Collections | Digital Collections | Vanderbilt University History

The Garland Oak

Reprinted from the Vanderbilt Alumnus Magazine v2 n5 (March 1917): 131

Garland Oak on West Campus In the January issue of The Alumnus we published the picture of a giant oak over the simple title, "Garland Oak on West Campus," and made no further remarks thereupon. Since then many parties have called our attention to the fact that the oak in question is no longer in existence, and the picture therefore does not represent the campus as it is. Our antiquary has made for us now an exhaustive investigation into the entire history of the Garland oak, and we give here some of his findings in a much abbreviated form.

It is true that the oak no longer stands. It was put out of existence in 1911 by Cap Alley and his cohorts, and the remains piled up in state along with the bones of many another outworn hero just back of Kissam Hall. The picture itself shows that the Garland oak had developed a very alarming tilt towards the west; it does not show what was also a fact, that a decay of many years standing had almost eaten out the base of it; and the two considerations were sufficient to convince any reasonable observer that the ancient tree was likely to go over in the course of any strong wind and was a menace to innocent passersby.

History centered about the Garland oak to a degree not equalled in the case of any other tree on the campus. The name itself was applied to the tree from the fact that it stood just north of Chancellor Garland's house, now the home of Dr. Stevenson and the first of the residences on the road from West End through to the tennis courts after passing Kissam Hall. The old Chancellor set particular store by the oak which guarded the approach to his home. He placed boxes in it for the benefit of the squirrels, and he would not allow the birds which sang in it to be disturbed.

Broadway Entrance on West CampusThe Garland oak stood at the top of the hill on which the whole campus takes its commanding situation, and its position was indeed so conspicuous that various surveys were made from it as a starting point for the land round about. Forty years ago a road led westwards from Broad Street right through the campus towards the Garland oak. The road is still there, in a considerably improved state, but the oak which was once such a landmark no longer stands.

The oak figured prominently in deeds of conveyance, after the primitive fashion of locating real estate so much favored in Tennessee and Kentucky history. Most famous is a deed that is still preserved among the archives of the University, though the paper is yellow with age and brittle from the fire of 1905 through which it passed. The deed on the outside bears this inscription:

H. N. McTyeire, Trustee
To Deed
"The Vanderbilt University"
65 1-2 acres — the
University Site
28 July, 1873.

The paper itself goes on to define "certain real estate," which had been made over to said H. N. McTyeire as Trustee for Central University and is herein conveyed to Vanderbilt University which has now succeeded said Central University; and the boundary lines are given with reference to a certain "overcup oak," which we can easily reckon from the description to have been identical with the tree that was to be known finally as the Garland Oak.

Sic transit gloria mundi, our antiquary concludes.