Edmonton

A tree in downtown Edmonton needs a little love for its 100th birthday

The Holowach tree will turn 100 next year. Dan Rose, the chair of the Edmonton Historical Board, is gathering support to recognize the tree's historical significance and clean up the little park around it.

Dan Rose is gathering support to recognize the Holowach tree's rich history

The tree is isolated, surrounded by cars and dumpsters south of Jasper Avenue near 106th Street. (Oumar Salifou/CBC)

A neglected horse chestnut tree in downtown Edmonton, surrounded by dumpsters and parked cars, will soon turn 100 years old.

Dan Rose, the chair of the Edmonton Historical Board, is gathering support to recognize the tree's historical significance and clean up the little park around it.

Standing at about 30 feet tall, the leafy tree is in a parking lot south of Jasper Avenue near 106th Street.

It is named the Holowach tree after Sam Holowach, a Ukrainian immigrant and entrepreneur who lived in Edmonton in the early 1900s.

"You wouldn't know it's here unless you were walking down this particular alley," Rose said interview this week.

Rose found the tree on his way to work one day, and was surprised when he learned about its rich history. 

"It's a great example of our city's history hidden in plain sight," he said. "It's really cool to see."

Dan Rose, the chair of the Edmonton Historical Board, sitting on a bench underneath the Holowach tree. (Oumar Salifou/CBC)

Sam Holowach was a tailor who later owned a dyeing and dry-cleaning business, according to the website Edmonton Maps Heritage.

His legacy runs deep in Edmonton. Holowach's son Ambrose was the first Alberta cabinet minister of Ukrainian descent, and another son, Walter, was a violin concertmaster with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. 

The Holowach tree is a species not native to Alberta. Around 1920, Walter Holowach came home from Vienna with a horse chestnut seed in his violin case and planted it in the family's downtown Edmonton yard.

"There was probably not any or certainly not very many horse chestnuts in the city at the time," said Dustin Bajer, a horticulturalist who is researching heritage trees in Edmonton.   

"It would have been a surprise to the family that planted it, and the fact that it's done as well as it has is one of the things that makes it quite unique, and quite interesting," Bajer said.

Cigarette butts litter the ground in front of a tired-looking bench in the tiny parklet that surrounds the Holowach tree. (Oumar Salifou/CBC)

Rose has plans to celebrate the Holowach tree's birthday with a party next year. He'll also be looking to renovate its bench, repaint the fence, add some flowers, and install a plaque to recognize the tree's history.

"It's a great opportunity to have a conversation about public places in the downtown core, and how citizens can get involved in making their city a greener, more livable, more friendly place to be," he said.

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