Appeal Brings Road Shift

Governor Keeps Axe from Falling on 2 Rt. 6 Trees

by Shirley Haner

"The words of a song that state 'Only God can Make a Tree' are probably being rewritten today by a Route 6 resident, Conrad Martens, to read, 'Only Governor Rockefeller could save our trees.'

"And save them the Governor did, just days before the axe was about to fall on two 150-year old maples in front of the historic home. they were to be removed this week to make way for a service road from the new Route 6.

"It took a personal plea to the Governor from both Mrs. Martens a year ago, and another impassioned letter just two weeks ago from Allan Dewey, former President of the Putnam Valley Historical Society and an active member of the Boscobel restoration Society to halt the blades of the construction workers.

"It all began exactly three years ago when the Martens owners of a pre-revolutionary home built in 1740 learned that plans for a service road from the new Route 6 would include the removal of the two trees and two 200-year old Norway spruce trees.

Appeal to Governor

"With the destruction of the trees imminent last July, Mrs. Martens wrote directly to the Governor, appealing to him to save their historic home 'from virtual destruction.'

"Came an answer from the governor's secretary, William J. Ronan, 'The Department of Public Works would 'restudy the location of the north service road in front of the Martens residence.'

"October of the last year, the Superintendent of Public Works J. Burch McMorras said the Norway Spruces would be saved, but the maple trees 'were still in danger of destruction.'

"In November, came another letter from Mr. McMorran, stating 'we will do whatever is possible to see if they Maple trees can be saved during the construction.'

"July 1, 1963. The consulting engineer on the project, William Sedgewick told the Martens that the maple trees would have to come down unless plans were changed.

Save This Jewel

"The next day, Mr. Dewey, taking pencil in hand and with all the fervor possessed by historical lovers, pleaded, urged, and finally begged the Governor to save them. 'You will be as proud of this home as you are of Boscobel, and you will earn the gratitude of millions in the future,' he wrote. 'Please I beg of you act again and immediately as the axes are waiting, and save this jewel of an earlier era.'

"On July 11, Mr. Dewey received a call from Mr. Moran stating, 'the trees would be saved.'

"On July 16, C. J. Lyman, senior supervising engineer wrote to the Martens 'that the trees would be saved while studies are made to determine what can be done.'

Road Shifted

"Yesterday, William Sedgewick, consulting engineer on the Route 6 project told The Star that a final decision to save the trees had been made. The location of the service road would be relocated about 10 feet so that the trees would be on the shoulder of the road and that the wall which supports the trees would remain so that there would be no injury to the root system.

"The leaves of the two stately trees continue today to shade the lovely pink house where Washington and Lafayette slept, entirely undisturbed about the drama that has raged about their existence for three years.

Dewey's Letter

"Here is the letter to Governor Rockefeller by Mr. Dewey.

"Dear Gov. Rockefeller. For many years I was President of the Putnam County Historical Society. Therefore may I call to your urgent attention the wanton destruction of rare old trees in the course of construction of the new Route 6 in Shrub Oak, N. Y. Most of the damage has been done, but a telephone call from you at once could stop the cutting down of two virgin maples in front of the home of Mrs. and Mrs. Conrad Martens built in 1740.

"This homesite is an historical and beautiful oasis of what will become a super highway and must not be desecrated, but must remain forever for posterity to admire and be inspired. The house was the Col. John Hyatt home during the Revolutionary War.

"Built in 1740 and wisely restored and maintained by the present owners if is at the foot of Indian Hill, at the site of an old Indian encampment in Westchester County. Washington and Lafayette DID sleep here. This road is to be only a service one allowing Mr. and Mrs. Martens access to and from their home. Mr. Thomas Camarco, the contractor states that the two maples could be saved without effecting the road since they are on the edge of the shoulder.

"These trees frame the homesite and complete the picture which once gone can never be duplicated. Life magazine of July 5, has an article entitled, 'American's Heritage of Great Architecture is Doomed, It Must be Saved.' This shows the need to preserve our heritage while we can. I live next door to Boscobel and was one of those who worked to save it from the very start. I talked with you at the dedication of it and was pleased by what you said. We saved a shourse of rare beauty and now we are proud. Please I beg of you act again and immediately as the axes are waiting and save this jewel of an earlier era. You will be proud of this home as you are of Boscobel, and you will earn the gratitude of millions in the future.

"With every good wish to you and Mrs. Rockefeller,

Very sincerely,

Allan Dewey."

Also photo caption which reads: "Thanks to action by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, two 150-year old maples on the property of Conrad Martens, Shrub Oak, were saved from the Route 6 construction blades.

--Star Photo (Shirley Haner)

(Peekskill Evening Star, Wednesday, July 24, 1963)

Return to Research Archives List