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Historical Tree Tour of Main Campus

About the tour
The Historic Tree Tour tells the stories of about twenty trees and one ornamental planting around Vanderbilt’s main campus. The stories of the trees are intertwined with people and events that shaped the history of the university and developed its distinctive character.

The tour starts between Rand and Garland Halls in the center of campus, then follows a roughly circular path around most of the original part of the university. It concludes near Benson Hall, not far from where the tour starts. You should allow several hours to walk the entire tour and to read the story of each tree, although it is possible to do any part of the tour independently by starting at one of the trees in the list below.

How the tour works
The tour is designed to make use of portable devices. An iPad is optimal, although smart phones should also work well. Each tree has its own web page and is connected to the previous and next tree by buttons at the top of the page.  In addition to the text description of the tree’s location, there is a map at the bottom of the page showing where the tree is located relative to landmarks on the campus.

An important feature of this tour that is not present in the other tours is the associated “story pages” that go with the tree pages. In the Notes section for each tree, there is a “history page” link in the text. Clicking on that link takes you to a separate page on the arboretum website that provides additional text and photographs that tells more details about the tree, historical persons associated with the tree, and about buildings and other features of the campus that were or are linked to that tree. At the bottom of the story page is a link back to the tree page. You can also use your browser’s back button to return to the tree web page.

As you take the tour, you will find that some trees are also included on the main campus (botanically-focused) tour and the Trail of Giants tour. If you want, you can branch off on those tours by pressing their “next tree” button, but to stay on the historic tour, make sure that you click on the yellow “next tree button.

If your phone or iPad has GPS, you can use the “Find Me!”
button on the tree page to locate the tree.  When you click on the button, a drop pin will fall on the tree’s location on a map.  If you then click on the button to display your location on the map, you can see where you are relative to tree.  You should be able to zoom in and make your “blue dot” meet the drop pin as you walk towards the tree.  Because the campus WiFi network covers many outdoor areas, you may be able to take parts of the tour without 3G.

Each tree also has a QR code that you can scan to load
the tree’s page into your phone. If a tree on the tour has a physical label, there is a QR code sticker on the label. This is one way to know that you have located the right tree. It also allows anyone who discovers the QR code to load the tree’s web page into their portable device.

Where to park
Parking on the Vanderbilt Campus can be challenging because there are few designated visitor spaces. The  Visitor Parking page contains information about possible places to park, but for this tour it is recommended that you park in the Wesley Place parking garage because it contains many pay-by-the-hour parking spaces that can be utilized by visitors. There is free parking on the north side of Scarritt Place opposite the garage, but it is for a limited time and is usually filled by mid-morning on weekdays. Do not park in reserved or zone parking without a permit. You will be ticketed and possibly towed.

Starting the tour

Here’s a map showing the starting and ending points of the tour:

Map showing start and end of historic tour

Click this button to go to the first tree on the tour:

If you are viewing this on your computer and want to open the tour on your phone, scan this QR code to go to the first tree on this tour. On iPhones, simply open your camera app and point the camera at the code. When it’s recognized a “WEBSITE QR CODE” button will appear at the top of the screen. Click on it and it will take you to your browser.

List of trees on the tour (in order)

Note: This tour used to start with Vanderbilt’s most famous tree, the Bicentennial Oak. However, it fell over on November 12, 2022. As of 2024, you can still view its plaque and the newly planted Sesquicentennial Oak (also a bur oak) can be seen nearby.

Other trees that have died or been cut down are indicated by “R.I.P.” You can still view their web and history pages, but you will no longer be able to see the trees themselves.

1: Bicentennial Oak 2-691 R.I.P.
2: Magnolias around Bishop McTyeire’s grave 2-482
3: State champion Japanese Zelkova 2-845 R.I.P.
4: Water oak by the gateposts 2-879
5: Magnolias by the Law School 2-656
6: Mechanical Engineering water oak 2-675
7: Central Library terrace sweetgum (no ID)
8: The School of Nursing’s southern red oak 2-123
9: Chapman Quad elms 4-387
10: Magnolias by Wesley Hall 2-247
11: Divinity School’s dogwood 2-539
12: Magnolias by Buttrick Hall 4-487
13: Buttrick Hall’s scholar tree 4-208
14: Vaughn Home magnolia 3-82
15: Alumni Lawn elms 3-540
16: Alumni Hall magnolia 2-625
17: Galloway’s ginkgo 2-185
18: Kirkland Hall magnolias 2-1036
19: Vanderbilt’s biggest white oak 2-161
20: Furman Hall’s Shumard oak 2-455
21: Garden Club memorial
22: Vanderbilt’s biggest ash tree 2-638
23: Margaret Branscomb statue magnolia 2-865

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This tour was developed as part of a Buchanan Library Fellows Program operated by the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries of Vanderbilt University. The project fellows Phillip Yang, Taylor Hopkins, and Alex Ismodes researched documents in Special Collections, located photographs in the Special Collections photographic archive, took current photographs of trees, and wrote tree story text. Steve Baskauf of the Heard Libraries Digital Lab was the project mentor. He wrote and edited story text, took photos, edited the WordPress story web pages, and managed the Bioimages tree web pages. The content draws heavily on arboretum website pages and blog posts previously written by Steve. Thanks also to Teresa Gray of Special Collections who helped the fellows get started using the photo archives and helped them find physical objects in the collections.