I inadvertently came across some information about this tree – it may sit atop the actual Asylum Hill! It turns out that an oak tree had been at this spot for a very long time, and the oak marked the summit of Asylum Hill. Then about 110 years ago that oak died and had to be removed. A new tree was then planted, and although I haven’t confirmed it yet, I’m pretty sure it was this very tree.
There are two wrinkles to this tale. The first is that while this may mark the summit of the hill, it’s probably not the highest point any longer. When Garden Street was paved and widened, workers removed the dirt from the summit and moved it to what would become the walls of the reservoir, which is now The Hartford’s visitor parking lot – and which is now a higher point than the summit. The second is how high above the sidewalk the tree is. The workers were careful not to disturb the original oak tree, which meant they left its root ball intact. That mound of mulch between the sidewalk and the base of the tree, then, marks the location of the oak’s root ball.
How cool is that?