space
Salem Online History This site is provided by Salem Public Library (Salem, Oregon).
Tips
space
 
space
space space
Brief History
Commerce
Culture
Education
Maps
Natural History
People
Places
Timeline Search
Transportation
space
Salem's "Littlest Redwood Park in the World."
 

Location: Waldo Park

This is a traveling salesman story you can tell in mixed company. The year was 1872, and a traveling salesman was passing through a rural community way out West. The community was Salem. The salesman was peddling Sequoia gigantea, Redwoods.

Judge William Waldo bought one and planted it on his property, which happened to be outside the city limits. The tree and the town grew, and so did William Waldo's prominence in the city's affairs. When the time came for Waldo's property to be platted and taken into the city, the judge's influence was great enough so he could successfully insist that the tree be preserved before he vacated his land for a state highway.
And that's how the giant Redwood on the west side of Summer Street NE, immediately north of Union Street, became, according to some, the world's smallest park. Various writers and publications have taken note of the tree's plight in the battle against the automobile as the adjacent streets were widened and then paved. At odd intervals through the years, angered motorists have condemned the ever-spreading Redwood as a traffic hazard that ought to be chopped down.

To insure that motorists spare the tree, a group called the American War Mothers moved on Salem's City Council in 1936 to establish the tree as a park. On June 15, 1936, the city council passed a resolution naming the tree "Waldo Park" and, although the tree has continued to grow, its roughly 12 by 20 feet of park space (for the tree trunk and a plaque) still apparently qualifies as the smallest public park by people who are concerned by things being the biggest of smallest.

One chronicler of the tree's progress noted that it has outlived one State Capitol and a County Courthouse. It also has outlived at least one weekly magazine that chanced to slight it. In 1956, the old Saturday evening Post published a story stating that Mill Valley, Calif., had the smallest public park in the world. Several Oregon writers were quick to correct this misinformation.
As the tree grows, Ripley’s Believe or Not record for the "smallest park" was contested. And eventually the little park space for the big tree became known as the "Littlest Redwood Park in the World."But one thing about the tree has never been cleared up, a feat that challenges selling refrigerators to Eskimos: A traveling tree salesman doing any business in heavily forested Western Oregon in 1872!

The tree has been designated an Oregon Heritage Tree.

Bibliography: 
Marion County Historical Society pamphlet on Heritage Trees, Salem Public Library.
Oregon Statesman, Sunday, November 14, 1971

 

 
Redwood tree in Salem's smallest park
Redwood tree in Salem's smallest park
[ View Image ]
 
space
Home | About | History Resources | SiteMap | Historic Photographs | Salem Public Library
space
Brief History Commerce © 2005-2006 Salem Public Library (Salem, OR) Culture Education Maps Natural History People Places Timeline Search Transportation