Thursday, March 27, 2014

240 year old Black Gum tree falls

A ~240 year old Black Gum tree that graced the skies of Four Corners for centuries fell a couple weeks ago.  The tree was located off Forest Glen Road in Argyle Park, which takes its name for the former country club on the same site.  The tree was brought down by the winds of March 12th, a victim of the terrible weather we have had this winter.

The tree a couple years ago.  Image from Montgomery County Forestry Board
This tree witnessed an impressive amount of history during its lifetime.  At 240 years old, it dates to just before the American Revolution.  Here are some noteworthy events that occurred around the tree during its lifespan:

This tree started growing in the Maryland Province of the British Empire in 1774.  At this time, the area around Four Corners was home to small farms that grew tobacco and corn, and these farms were worked by tenant farmers and slaves.  At some point, the land was purchased by Ben Johnson, a free black man (Maryland was still a slave state at the time).  In 1855, Mr. Johnson was paid $25 by Montgomery County when Forest Glen Road was constructed through his property.

A few years after the construction of Forest Glen Road, the area saw significant military activity as Confederate troops marched down Georgia Avenue towards Fort Stevens.  The battle was a loss for the Confederates.  After sacking the Blair Mansion in Silver Spring, they retreated north on Georgia Avenue towards the Potomac River.

30 years after the Civil War, a golf course opened on the site.  The course was built in 1890, and it became Argyle Country Club in 1922, one of the oldest golf courses in the county.  The country club remained until the late 1950's, when the course was significantly altered for the construction of the Capital Beltway.  The country club moved away, and the new golf course was renamed Sligo Creek Golf Course, and it was operated by the M-NCPPC, as it is today.

Subdivisions of homes were built in the vicinity of the tree starting in the 1940's.  The neighborhoods now known collectively as South Four Corners had different individual names when first constructed.  Old maps of the area identify the subdivisions of "Fairway", "Rosewood", and "Sunset Terrace".  These names have since fallen out usage, but they are interesting because they identify different clusters of houses that were probably built by different developers.

In 1976, the tree was identified as a Bicentennial Tree.  The property north of the Beltway that had formerly been part of Argyle Country Club became Argyle Park.  The tree provided shade for picnics and other events at the park, and it was a celebrated part of the community.

It is sad to see this tree go, especially because of the rich history it witnessed over the years.  However, I'm sure another tree will get planted in its place, and maybe the new tree can live even longer.

Ken Hawkins provided some of the information for this post. 


  1. Adding recent pics of what is left of the true would enhance this post.

  2. Can you share the reference to the golf course being built in 1890?