George Washington picnicked here: 600-year old tree to fall

It's expected to take two or three days to remove the entire tree from the bedroom community about 30 miles west of NY, which has long celebrated its white oak.

A white oak tree has been standing beside the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in Bernards Township, New Jersey for 600 years.

The dead tree, believed to be the nation's oldest white oak, now stands at over 100 feet tall.

Crews at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in Bernards began taking down the 600-year-old tree that was declared dead after it began showing rot and weakness during the last couple of years.

Workers have begun the process of cutting the tree down. Washington once picnicked underneath it with Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette, who fought in the American Revolution, town officials say.

A 16-year-old white oak grown from acorns collected from the great white oak was recently planted on the north end of the church.

But on Monday, the tree - believed to be among the oldest in the nation - took its final bow in the church graveyard that it's called home for 600 years.

Arborists say the tree existed for 300 years before the church was built in 1717. They determined it wouldn't be able to withstand many more harsh winters or spring storms.

Experts say fewer trees are replicating the old oak's 600-year lifespan.

The tree's circumference was 18 feet and it had a branch spread of about 150 feet.

'It just kind of feels like a part of the town is dying with it, ' one resident told CBS a year ago.

"It has been an integral part of the town, that's for sure", Jon Klippel, a member of the church's planning council, told WABC.

Even though the town has known for many months the tree would soon be gone, that doesn't make its coming absence any easier, Malay observed.

Keith Keiling, owner of Keiling Tree Care in Basking Ridge, said he expects the removal of the tree will be finished today, despite predicted rain. Hundreds of people came by throughout the day to say goodbye to the historic tree that has been the centerpiece of the community for centuries.

Despite the tree's condition, some Bernards, New Jersey, residents were stumped as to why it needed to be removed.

  • Bernice Underwood