By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Liberty Tree



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE LIBERTY TREE IN MAGIC KINGDOM

By Jim Korkis

The Liberty Tree was an iconic symbol of the American Revolution. Walt Disney included a version of it in his live action feature film Johnny Tremain (1957) and intended to have a living representation in his proposed but never-built Liberty Street in Disneyland.

(c) Disney

Instead, it is in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square. The tree in Liberty Square displays thirteen lanterns commemorating the thirteen original colonies. It is the largest tree ever transplanted on Walt Disney World property.

The preparation to move the live oak from the east side of the property to the Magic Kingdom, a distance of eight miles, took almost a year of planning. The tree was forty feet tall, sixty feet wide and weighted thirty-eight tons. The root ball measured eighteen feet by sixteen feet by four feet deep.

It was too large and heavy to tie a chain around the trunk and lift it as was common because that would have caused massive damage to the bark and sensitive cambrium layers and potentially kill the tree.

In 1985, I did an interview with Director of Landscape Design Bill Evans who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention. We occasionally had to move trees and couldn’t use the accepted practice of putting a large box around the root system because sometimes the weight would have been more than we could have handled.

“We drilled through the hardwood center of the trunk and steel rods inserted to form a cross. North-South and East-West. These rods served as handles for hoisting and hauling the tree with a 100-ton crane to its present location. We went around with pruning shears to reduce the root system to something we could handle. By doing all this, we reduced the weight to about one-fifth.

“Local nurserymen and landscape people were absolutely horrified including the professional pathologist from the University of Florida who predicted the tree would die in two years if we bored a hole through it.

“When we planted it, we re-inserted the original wood plugs. Unfortunately, over time they became diseased and had to be removed and we filled the holes with concrete to stop any further spread of the disease. We also grafted a small live oak onto the tree to give it that fuller shape it has today.”

The tree began it journey June 11, 1970 but was so heavy that the trunk could only move slowly inches at a time much like the vehicles that haul rockets to a launch site. The tree was re-planted on March 6, 1971.

According to the sign at the side of the tree:

“The original Liberty Tree, a stately elm, was a rallying point for pre-revolutionary activities. The open space under its branches was called ‘Liberty Hall’ and a flag pole was erected through its branches with a hoisted flag the symbol for action.

“Countless inflammatory cartoons and verses were nailed to its trunk and many Tories hung in effigy from its branches. Perhaps its proudest moment was the repeal of the Stamp Act when innumerable lanterns blazed among its branches for all to see.”

On the bronze plaque located at the base of the tree are the following words:

“Under the boughs of the original Liberty Tree in Boston in 1765, Patriots, calling themselves ‘The Sons Of Liberty’, gathered to protest the imposition of the Stamp Act.  In the years that followed, almost every American town had a Liberty Tree —  A Living Symbol Of The American Freedom of Speech and Assembly.

“Our Liberty Tree is a Southern Live Oak, Quercus Virginiana, more than 100 years old.”

The tree is the proud parent of more than 500 young trees that started out as acorns harvested from it.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
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