Nineteen years ago, Richard Whitney Jr. and his wife took a look at an, at the time, undeveloped property in Hahnville adorned by a plush landscape of oak trees, and they decided they just might stay awhile.
“Something about it felt like home,” Whitney said.
The trees that still today welcome visitors to their River Road front yard carry more significance than simply decoration. These trees have lasted through the annals of history; while Whitney said the exact age of the trees are unknown, it’s thought they are anywhere from 300 to 500 years old.
Last week, one of those trees, St. Charles Parish Live Oak, Huckleberry No. 3201, lost close to 35 percent of its mass, the second time in the past 10 years the tree has suffered a major change. The tree is a protected landmark by state law.
“There are four major sections of the tree,” Whitney said.
“We lost the first 10 years ago, then just recently it was another. It’s massive. We cut it and it took two days just to clear the driveway.”
Whitney said the tree is in the dying phase of its life.“It could last another 100 years, we can’t be sure,” he said. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve lost 50 percent of the canopy. The center’s got some rot in it.
“(The tree) probably predates our country. It’s been through all of the wars, all of the hurricanes, our entire history.It’s stood the test of time.”
The tree is 22 feet around and still stands as one of the largest in the parish, despite the loss of mass.
“It felt like the earth shook when we cut down one of the branches and it hit the ground,” he said. “It’s a noble landmark and we’re sad to see it slowly pass away.”