"There are too many of 'em, and too many of one kind," wrote James Russell Lowell about the Yard elms in a letter to President Hill on December 8, 1863. The history of the elms in the yard goes back 120 years, when it was decided to beautify the College grounds.
Today, perhaps two dozen of the "too many elms" which displeased Lowell are still standing. As old trees have died, replacements have been made in order to maintain the "classic shade." The University spends thousands every year in maintaining the splendor of the Yard's ancient trees.
Elms are predominant in the Yard not because they are more graceful and attractive than other trees, but because they can best withstand the conditions of city life. Undergraduates of Civil War days will remember the grove of pines sheltering "Universities Minor" at the rear of University Hall. Up to this fall there were two pines standing near the site of the original grove; the hurricane claimed one, so that now there is only one pine, one evergreen, in the entire Yard.
At the beginning of the present century, the Yard was well filled with all sorts of trees--pines, oaks, ashes, elms, and many others. Around 1910 a destructive invasion of leopard moths began. The situation became serious; all the historic trees and shrubbery were slowly succumbing. The Yard looked very bare in 1914, when a program of replanting and rearranging went into effect. No pine trees can grow any longer in the Yard, because there is too much soot and dirt in the air. During the Great War, the University transplanted many good-sized elms from the countryside around Boston and the Yard became beautiful once more.
The September hurricane, which wreaked so much havoc all through New England, did not do as much damage to the Yard as was feared. Half a dozen stately old trees were blown over and many branches were lopped off, but the Maintenance Department expects to have the Yard soon restored to all its former glory.