Heritage Tree honored at London’s historic Eldon House

Heritage Tree honored at London’s historic Eldon House

A 150-year-old Sycamore tree, located on the grounds of London’s historic Eldon House, has been granted Heritage Tree status by Forests Ontario. The tree was honoured in a ceremony attended by representatives from Forests Ontario, Eldon House, City of London and ReForest London on November 23rd.

Standing at 84 feet tall and with a trunk circumference of more than three feet, the Heritage Tree is an impressive sight. It was planted by John Harris, who built and first owned Eldon House – a large Georgian-style home– on its one acre grounds.

John Harris came to Canada as part of the British Navy to fight in the War of 1812. He fought the Americans on the Great Lakes, and was eventually promoted to Master of a warship called the Prince Regent. He met his wife, Amelia, after the war ended; they went on to have 12 children, 10 of whom survived infancy.

Built in 1834, Eldon House has been visited by many well-known figures over the years. It was visited by politician Colonel Thomas Talbot, actors Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, John Labatt (founder of the Labatt Brewing Company), Reverend Benjamin Cronyn (Bishop of Huron), and even Sir John A. Macdonald (Canada’s first Prime Minister).
The property stayed in the Harris family for four generations before being donated to the city in 1960. Because it has remained unchanged since the 19th century – complete with family heirlooms, antique furnishings and décor – it now serves as a historic site. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the house and its grounds, and groups of 12 or more can book guided tours.

The Heritage Tree was originally part of a stand of Sycamores, but it is now the last surviving tree from that time period on the property. A plaque has been erected next to the tree, in recognition of its status, by Forests Ontario – a non-profit charitable organization focused on tree planting, restoration, education and awareness.

“This tree is a part of our province’s past,” says Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario. “John Harris planted it a century and a half ago. The tree would go on to be played under and gazed upon by not only John’s children, but his grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is a reminder that when we plant trees, they are an investment in our future generations.”

This tree has also been a home for countless generations of animals. The property has numerous sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, brown squirrels, raccoons and ground hogs. Over its lifetime, this Heritage Tree has reduced atmospheric carbon by more than 100,000 pounds; for comparison, an average driver in a mid-sized car will produce 11,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Forests Ontario’s Heritage Tree Program was created in partnership with the Ontario Urban Forest Council and is sponsored by TD Bank Group. The program serves to collect and tell the stories of Ontario’s unique trees, bringing awareness to their social, cultural, historical and ecological values.

“The Heritage Tree Program not only allows us to celebrate our history, but also reflect on the importance of the long term care of our trees and forests for a more sustainable tomorrow” says Andrea Barrack, Vice President of Global Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank Group. “Through our corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, we are proud to support Forest Ontario and this program so that we can help create a legacy of healthy, vibrant communities for generations to enjoy.”

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