After 100 years, this four-legged Iowa beauty is tree-mendous

Last month, I wrote about a unique 100-foot cottonwood tree growing in the middle of the road near Brayton, Ia.

Well, this four-legged archway tree in Cedar Falls is giving it a run for its money as the coolest Iowa tree ever.

Four legged tree in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

One hundred years ago (1915), John Henning planted 4 linden tree saplings—2 on either side of the walk—leading up to his front door. Mr. Henning, a farmer who had immigrated from Germany as a young man, had moved into town when he retired. With lots of expereince grafting apple trees, he aimed to imitate the archways of lindens he recalled from Berlin. First, the two on the same side of the walk were lashed together and grafted. Then when each pair was tall enough to arch over the walk, he grafted the pairs. Over time, a towering trunk grew from the original four.

The four-legged tree of Cedar Falls has weathered two major setbacks in its long life. Not too many years after Mr. Henning started his project, the front right tree died and a replacement was grafted in. Thus the lesser girth of that trunk.

A Facebook post last week by Vintage History — a page dedicated to showcasing “old or unique items” among other things across the country — went viral, garnering almost 3,000 shares and 100 comments. The page had also posted a photo of the tree in August 2016, which went even more viral, if that’s considered a thing: 27,500 shares and 500-plus comments.

Tim Olsen, who owns the home where the tree is located on the 1800 block of Tremont Street in Cedar Falls, provided a historical rundown of the tree’s life in that August post.

A German immigrant named John Henning tied and slightly spliced four Linden saplings in 1915, five years before Olsen’s house was built, he wrote. It then formed an archway as the trunks entwined. Attempts of presenting the tree at the world’s fair in Chicago were made in 1933 because nobody at the time had seen anything like this before, but second thoughts came about, the process halted and the tree remained at its current location.

In a story published by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier in July 2014, the tree “has been significantly diminished since a 2009 storm stripped nearly 60 percent of its upper foliage.” Olsen wrote that the storms split the top of the tree in half, with one half leaning over the street. He decided to cut down that half for the safety of cars, houses and people in the area.

The four-legged tree located on the 1800 block of Tremont Street in Cedar Falls, Ia., was significantly diminished in 2009 by storm damage.”We left the base up to where it wasn’t rotted out so they are still tied together in the hopes that that the one living would intact, maybe reproduce and make it look like a tree again,” Olsen wrote.

Longtime former Mayor Jon Crews grew up in the house of the tree, the Courier’s story said. He had said that he didn’t think much of it at the time, but often built forts out of the tree’s trunks.

“I know there were people who would occasionally stop by to ask my parents about it,” Crews said. “When I tell people where I grew up, they always know where I’m talking about.”

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