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Wizard of Oz
Memorial Oak Grove
North Syracuse, New York

PHOTO DYarrow 4/17/02

Community Forester Tom Howard with
a large Black Oak dedicated to Ghandi

Wizard of Oz
Memorial Oak Grove
Junior High School, North Syracuse, New York

Data Sheets:
Nov. 5, 2001, May 5, 2002

Wizard of Oz Memorial Oak Grove—seven acres behind the North Syracuse Junior High School running track—is a significant natural and historic site in Onondaga County that contains some of the oldest and largest trees in the county. The Grove is a valuable greenspace for the region, and an outstanding educational and ecological resource. The Grove's connection to L. Frank Baum and The Wizard of Oz give's North Syracuse's most important natural site international significance.

The Grove is an outstanding old growth forest exemplifying an oak association, a forest type rare in central New York. This community of White, Northern Red and Black Oaks is the largest yet discovered in Onondaga County. Dominant canopy trees are white oak, black oak, northern red oak, and red maple. Associate trees include black cherry, black tupelo, sassafras, beech, black birch, yellow birch, and white pine. Black oak, tupelo and sassafras are rare in central New York, and are only common much farther south.
Data Details
Nov. 5, 2001
May 5, 2002

The Oak Grove is called the Wizard of Oz Memorial because it was the inspiration for the Great Forest of Oz in world-famous author L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum was born in Chittenango, and grew up in the Syracuse area. In 1868, he moved to Rose Lawn Estate in what is now Mattydale. Young L. Frank Baum had several relatives in North Syracuse (then called Centreville) in the oak grove's vicinity, and Perry Hinsdell, the grove's owner, lived across the street from the Baums.

The Great Forest is an important setting in many of Baum's Oz books, and the first book—The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—has a specific reference to an oak grove. It is in the Enchanted Forest that Dorothy meets one of her allies: the Cowardly Lion, who wanted courage as his gift from the Wizard. Appropriately, in German, "baum" means "tree."

History

The first recorded owner of the property was Captain Peter Talman, veteran of the Revolutionary War, who drew lot 91 in the Military Tract township of Cicero, on which the Oak Grove sits. Military Tract lots were 600 acres each, and granted to veterans of the Revolutionary War after the 1790 Salt Treaty with Onondaga Nation.
Forest Stewards
Tom Howard and Bob Henry
with the L. Frank Baum Northern Red Oak
Wizard of Oz Memorial Oak Grove

PHOTO DYarrow 4/17/02

The Grove today is part of the Town of Clay, as Clay was separated from Cicero in 1827. Talman may have sold white oak timber for salt barrels for the burgeoning salt industry. The Salt Road (Salina Street, now U.S. 11), built in 1812 for the shipment of salt from Onondaga Lake, went by the grove. Talman held the property until 1819, after which it changed hands several times. Hinsdell (for whom Hinsdale is named) owned the grove from 1850-1902, and he knew L. Frank Baum.

The North Syracuse Central School District has owned the Oak Grove since 1950.

The grove's largest tree—a giant red oak that was alive in Baum's time—was dedicated to L. Frank Baum by the Junior High School Oak Grove Club, a student organization that promotes the preservation and interpretation of the grove. The Oak Grove Club has dedicated several other trees to important cultural figures, including Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Eistein, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, and Jackie Robinson.
Directions to
Wizard of Oz
Memorial Oak Grove
  • I-81 north from I-90 (NYS Thruway)
  • Exit 6 Taft Road
  • turn left (west) onto Taft Road
  • straight to US 11 Main Street
  • continue straight across US 11
  • next right into school campus
  • bear right toward athletic fields
  • park in lot next to fields
  • Several trees have been cored with an increment borer, which extracts a thin trunk core, on bwhich annual growth rings are counted. Thus, it is possible to determine how old a tree is without harming it. Most of the large trees are between 130 and 170 years old, and a few are estimated to be over 200 years old.

    The Wizard of Oz Memorial Oak Grove is one of the oldest and most pristine forests in Onondaga County. It has never been plowed, never completely cleared. Thus, the oak grove provides a window into the past of our earliest history.

    The Oak Grove displays many signs of old growth, or original forest. It has always been a forest, and some of its trees date back to before the first settlements were established in this area. Most of the grove's terrain is rolling pit and mound topography caused by the decay of fallen trees over many centuries. Mounds are caused by the decay of the upturned root mass, and pits are caused when high winds lift a tree's roots out of the ground. Most of the grove's 150-year-old or more oaks and maples rise out of ancient treefall mounds—remains of trees that blew over centuries ago. Pit and mound topography is an extremely important characteristic of old growth forests.

    The Oak Grove's other important old growth characteristics include large old trees, fallen logs in varying stages of decay, buttressed bases on large trunks, large standing dead trees (snags), high flat-topped and spreading crowns. Most forests in central New York do not have these characteristics.


    The Earth Restoration & Reforestation Alliancewww.championtrees.orgupdated 8/2/2005