A Tree (Still) Grows in Rockville

The 1902 Pin Oak in front of the Phelps mansion has a storied history.

The Pin Oak at the Phelps Mansion. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
The Pin Oak at the Phelps Mansion. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
In a section of town known for its Victorian architecture stands a tree. 

It is perhaps Rockville's - and Vernon's - most historic from that era.

The tree - called the Pin Oak - was recently pointed out by Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Dinnie. It stands majestically next to one of Rockville's most majestic homes - the old Phelps mansion at 1 Ellington Ave. 

Technically, the Pin Oak is a year older than the Victorian Era as town documents point out that the tree can be traced back to the 1902 Connecticut Constitutional Convention.
An excerpt from the publication "Connecticut's Notable Trees," which the Parks and Recreation Department has a copy of, indicates that U.S. Sen. Joseph Hawley presented each delegate with a tree near the close of the convention. It was to remind those attending of "the purpose and friendships made during the session."

The trees totaled 168 (there are now 169 towns after West Haven was established in 1921) and were provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to "Connecticut's Notable Trees."

They were not offspring of the Charter Oak, as first thought. 

For years, state officials had a hard time keeping track of the trees.  A 1992 Town of Vernon memo indicates that town and state officials confirmed that the huge tree at 1 Ellington Ave. was indeed the Pin Oak from the 1902 convention. 

Apparently Charles Phelps, the town's representative at the gathering, planted it in his front yard without any marker identifying it. Phelps served as corporation counsel for Rockville from 1880 to 1892, was a member of the state Legislature from 1185 to 1896 and Connecticut's first attorney general in 1899. 

The mansion now serves as a home to veterans. 


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