A 150-year old Monterey cypress on Clay Street split Friday night and caused damage to 3 vehicles parked under it and across the street. Port Townsend city crews hauled 12 dump trucks of wood from the scene. (Kevin Mason)

A 150-year old Monterey cypress on Clay Street split Friday night and caused damage to 3 vehicles parked under it and across the street. Port Townsend city crews hauled 12 dump trucks of wood from the scene. (Kevin Mason)

Fate of massive Port Townsend tree in the air after portion damages vehicles, wires

PORT TOWNSEND — A beloved Monterey cypress tree in the uptown district, said to be 150 years old, will be examined by an arborist this week to determine its fate after a portion of it broke apart and damaged three vehicles.

No one was injured during the incident on Clay Street on Friday evening.

It was a calm night and there had been an inch of rainfall over the previous few days. John Eissinger, owner of the Blue Gull Inn on whose property the tree is located, heard a strange noise outside.

“It was 10:10 p.m. I heard something outside in the yard,” Eissinger said. “I went to the front of the house and realized it was the tree cracking. I quickly moved my Suburban out of the way then moved my Explorer just in time to hear a huge crack and saw half of the tree fall into the street.”

Eissinger said the tree is 150 years old and was planted at the same time his historic house was built.

He said the tree measures 60 feet tall and is over 33½ feet in circumference.

Two cars across the street suffered damage. Next door neighbor Kevin Mason’s van, which was parked directly under the tree, took a direct hit.

“I had just settled in for the night,” Mason said. “Sometimes I hear animals running about along the roof and I heard this noise that sounded like a herd of cattle.”

“All of a sudden all my lights went out. I got a flashlight and noticed all these power lines were hanging over the side of my house and heard people in the street. I looked out and saw a huge pile of tree. A good half of the tree had split off, and most of it was on my poor little van. It was totally covered with limbs.”

Mason said city crews rallied and said they would start to remove the tree immediately, but he was sensitive to the rest of the neighborhood and didn’t want chainsaws to be running through the night.

“The police blocked off the street and at 7 a.m. the city guys were ready to kick butt,” Mason said. “It looked like a two-day job, but they got it done quickly. It took 12 dumptruck loads to remove it all.”

Mason said he had to contact the Jefferson County Public Utility District and an electrician because his wires were pulled from his house.

Eissinger took care of the crew by putting out a table with coffee and baked goods.

At some point during the cleanup, a poet stopped by and posted “Lament for the Blue Gull Monterey Cypress,” with apologies and gratitude to W.H. Auden, on the tree along with some lilies. A small angel figurine was tucked into a crack in the trunk.

Mason said he was impressed with everyone’s response. He’s hoping the tree is removed soon as it hangs over his property and the damage could be catastrophic.

“The tree has heart rot pretty bad and is now pretty unbalanced,” he said. “I don’t think there is a good reason to keep it.”

As a souvenir, Mason asked the city workers for some pieces for posterity.

“It was a beautiful old tree,” he said.

Eissinger said he is having an arborist examine the rest of the tree this week to determine if it can be saved.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].

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