Some of the toppled trees caused by so-called Hurricane Irene are impressive. But none will be missed as much as the pear tree that stood on an East Village corner for more than 200 years—before being felled by a winter storm and then an out-of-control wagon.
The story begins in the middle of the 17th century. That’s when New Amsterdam governor Peter Stuyvesant went back to his native Holland, returning to the city with a flowering pear tree.
Stuyvesant planted the tree on his Bouwerie, or farm, “as his memorial, ‘by which,’ said he, ‘my name may be remembered,” a nearby plaque reads.
As the tree grew, so did New York. Third Avenue and Thirteenth Street sprouted around it, and the tree remained on that corner until February 1867 (above photo, from the NYPL).
“After a massive winter storm, which had weakened the tree, two drays (low flat carts without sides or with very low sides, used for heavy loads, especially by brewers) collided, one of which was thrown against the tree with sufficient force to send the 200-year-old veteran to the equivalent of its knees,” reports a Villager article from 2005.
“With its demise went one of old New York’s popular sightseeing attractions and perhaps the last living vestige of the Dutch presence in the city.”
“The tree was taken down, but a Stuyvesant descendant gave a cross-section of its trunk to The New-York Historical Society, where it is enclosed in a glass case on the fourth floor.”
Here’s Third Avenue and 13th Street today.