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THE PADDOCK ELMS
AROUND the corner on Tremont Street, alongside the Burying-Ground, fourteen noble English elms sprang from the sidewalk. Of majestic height, their widespread branches afforded a grateful shelter from the sun’s glare. They were planted in 1762 by Captain Adino Paddock, Loyalist and coach-builder, whose workshop was across the way. And there they stood, braving the winter storms for more than a century until the year 1873, when they were ruthlessly cut down. While still fairly vigorous they fell under the displeasure of City foresters, victims of the modern spirit of improvement, which gives little heed to historic sentiment and association with the past.
Only two years before the removal of these trees, the Honorable Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, a former Mayor of Boston, thus wrote regarding them: “Far distant be the day when these old trees must be removed from the spot which they have so long occupied and ornamented! And may our City fathers ever regard them as among the cherished objects which must be preserved with the greatest care!”
With the exception of the Great Elm, which was destroyed by a storm in February, 1876, but two trees are shown on the Common in Bonner’s Map of 1722. Both of these trees were on or near the line of Park Street Mall. It is evident that popular sentiment was divided as to the expediency of removing the Paddock Elms. But public convenience, together with an appreciation of the need for better traffic conditions, finally prevailed over sentimental considerations.
In the years 1824 and 1825 a forester named Ira Adams had the sole charge of the Common and the trees thereon. In view of the public interest in the history of the Paddock Elms, occasioned by their removal, Mr. Adams, who was then an octogenarian, published some reminiscences, which appeared in the form of a letter addressed to the editor of the “Boston Transcript,” March 9, 1874. Among those with whom he was wont to converse, while engaged in his work on the Common, was an old gentleman named Benjamin Callender, who in his younger days had carried on the business of a merchant tailor on State Street; and whose residence was on Common Street, near the head of the Mall. He was a great lover of trees, and remembered well the time when the Paddock Elms were set out. Mr. Paddock had them brought in from Milton, where they had been stored since their importation from England. When the elms were planted, he used as supports a lot of old axletrees, which had accumulated in his carriage-shop near by. Mr. Adams was the forester who planted with his own hands the two rows of trees which arch over the Charles Street Mall, with the exception of a very few at the extreme southerly end.
Under the shade of the Paddock Elms the farmers sold dairy produce, which they had brought from the country in their market wagons. And here too their horses rested, and enjoyed their noonday provender.