Submitted by Resident Archivist, Deb Ross. – April 2020
We’ll continue our exploration of the images on the Chambers to Chalet interpretive panel at the entrance to the Chalet, with a closer look at the famous Chambers Blackheart Cherry tree, pictured on the panel with numerous members of the Chambers family posing beneath and among the branches of the tree. Here is another image of the tree, taken in full bloom, with David and Elizabeth Chambers’s son, Olympia mayor A.H. Chambers, standing at its base.
David Chambers brought the tree to the homestead in 1853, one of 27 he bought from famed orchardist Henderson Luelling. Within three years the tree was bearing enough cherries for Elizabeth Chambers to make a pie and serve it to fellow settler George Himes, who wrote about the tree many years later. It grew to an immense size, and many articles were written about it, its unusual age (it lived until the early 1920s), and the fact that it bore cherries most or all of its life. In the ‘20s it was necessary to significantly prune it, and pieces of it were preserved and sent to various historical associations in the Pacific Northwest, and to Iowa, the birthplace of Henderson Luelling. On May 4, Kay Coats from the Iowa State Historical Museum located and sent me an image of a slab from the Chambers Cherry that she had just discovered in their collection.
I like to think that the huge and beautiful cherry tree that is located near the entrance to Boulevard Park, just a couple hundred feet from the site of the Chambers Cherry tree, is a descendant of that earlier tree. The tree was already a few years old in a photograph from the early 1960s, which would make it older and much larger than most cherry trees. It too continues to bear fruit, and its late spring blooms are spectacular.
Image credits: Washington State Historical Society, Iowa State Historical Society, Deborah Ross