Under the Great Oak

Under the Great Oak

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Under the Great Oak is the story of America’s oldest white oak tree, the community that grew up under it, and the hard work of saying goodbye to a symbol of home. The history of the Great Oak of Basking Ridge begins in pre-Columbian America, with the Lenape gathering the white oak’s acorns for food and its branches providing shade for the animals that came to “bask on the ridge.” The story continues as Europeans flooded into the area and consumed the forests to fuel development, but somehow this tree survived. When the Scotch Presbyterians arrived in the early 1700s the tree had grown for 300 years, and the new arrivals built their church next to this example of nature’s majesty. Basking Ridge grew from a rural village visited by George Washington during the Revolutionary War to a hub of New Jersey’s corporate development in the 20th century. Expansion brought change, from modest country life to McMansions, from culturally homogeneity to a diverse population with 49 first languages. The Great Oak rose above downtown, watching over changes, and setting an example of quiet harmony. When experts claimed the tree died and must come down, the community had to say goodbye to a living monument of its past and face its future.
Starring Professor Tom Ombrello, Dr. Margaret McMenamin, Mayor Carolyn Graziano
Director Michael Reynolds

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