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Historic Downtown Tree Toppled
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Once the sun came out it was easier to see the demolition work being accomplished on a historic redwood tree in downtown Riverbank last week. Work began in the morning fog on Thursday, Jan. 31, and continued most of the day. Here, a worker can be seen pushing a piece off the trunk. Ric McGinnis/The News
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A Grover Tree Service worker is in a bucket lift, taking down a historic redwood tree in the early morning fog on Thursday, Jan. 31. The limbs were removed, then the tree was topped before being taken down in pieces, one of which is being lowered here. Ric McGinnis/The News

The last of a group of memorial cedar and redwood trees was removed in downtown Riverbank last week.

Thursday, Jan. 31 started out dreary, foggy and damp, with a Grover Tree Service crew working to take down the last cedar tree in the downtown area, from just behind the Historical Society Museum, across the alley from City Hall North.

Work started early, and took most of the day. Workers from Grover Tree Service said the boom arm on their truck reaches 75 feet in the air, so they estimated the tree stood to 95 feet or so. The top of the tree was dead, they said, and the city was worried it could come crashing down at any time.

In doing so, it could potentially fall on City Hall North, on the Police Services building, on the shed next to it, or even the historic museum building, built in 1921 as a Carnegie Library. Since 1996, the building has been listed on the historic registry.

The trees were planted in several locations in the downtown area in the 20th century, including a pair directly behind the Carnegie Library, seen in photos in the Riverbank Historical Society archives.

An article found at the museum reported by the Riverbank News in 1966 quoted a former librarian, Iva Pierce, who said that the large redwood tree (taken down last week), on the east end of the garden there, was given “by the late A.J. Barnes, in memory of his son, Ellis Barnes, who was killed in World War I.”

When the tree was planted, in the early 1920s, she said, Taps was played by local boy scouts, and a bronze plaque marked the tree. Another tree was donated by Lazetta Staley. A cedar tree was a gift from the Kill Kare Club, an “embroidery and fancywork club” in 1922. Yet another tree in the group was donated by the Royal Neighbors.

The article goes on to note that the huge oak tree (since removed and replaced) in front of the Carnegie Library was there before it was built, in 1921. It fell on the picnic table in front of the museum and the building that used to stand west of the library.

In addition to the trees removed from behind the museum, others in downtown have been taken down as well.

A similar redwood tree was removed from between City Hall South and the new cannabis outlet on Third Street. It, too, is a historic building, first constructed as the King Hotel, the first facility of its kind in Riverbank.

Another redwood used to stand next to the Methodist Church, on the corner of Third and Atchison streets. It was taken down when the entrance to the church was redesigned to include a handicapped accessible ramp.