A row of oak trees in the Oak Ridge section of Forest Park may appear to most people to be just like the hundreds of others planted throughout the area.
But local historian Ed Wendell has discovered the trees were planted close to 100 years ago to commemorate the Woodhaven residents who died while serving in World War I.
“This is a real stunner to me,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that falls into your lap.”
But it took some work for him to locate the trees.
Wendell said while reading the Brooklyn Eagle about two years ago, he read the story of the trees that were planted in the park in 1919 to commemorate the more than 70 community residents who died in the war, which had ended the year before.
Each tree had a ceremonial ribbon tied around it.
They were also the site of the annual Memorial Day celebration in Woodhaven.
Members of American Legion Post 118 in Woodhaven would lead a parade to the trees and hold a brief ceremony in front of a plaque that was located nearby.
The parade was held at that location until about 1942, when the American Legion was relocated to 89-02 91 St., where it resides today.
The members took the memorial plaque with them, but with the move abandoned the tradition of visiting the trees to pay tribute to the fallen Woodhaven residents.
Over time, people forgot about the significance of the trees, Wendell said.
“It had just been forgotten,” he said.
Although Wendell’s curiosity about the trees began about two years ago, it wasn’t until three weeks ago that he began looking for clues that would lead him to their location.
“There were many late nights in piecing this together,” he said.
One of the only clues he had from the article mentioned the trees were located near the old Golf Club House in the Oak Ridge section of the park.
But he was unable to identify which of the thousands of trees were the ones he was looking for.
Wendell said his wife had suggested using a city website, gis.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap, which allows users to see what New York City looked like many years ago.
“I went back and there it is,” he said of his discovery of the trees with the ribbons still wrapped around them.
Many of the trees have since fallen due to deterioration or natural disasters, but many of the original trees remain there today.
One tree in the area fell as recently as two years ago, Wendell said, and an examination of its core confirmed it had been planted around 1919.
Wendell said he hopes to have a commemoration near the trees in 2018 to recognize the one hundreth anniversary of the war’s end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
He also hopes to revive the tradition of tying ribbons around the trees in rememberance of the Woodhaven residents who died serving in the war.