History & Vitality of the Banyan Tree
John D. MacArthur, founder of the City of Palm Beach Gardens, took great strides to uphold the "garden theme" and the beauty of his new community. He envisioned winding streets without sidewalks named after flowers and trees and lush native and transplanted foliage.
The story of the 80-year old Banyan Tree is a testament of Mr. MacArthur's commitment to his new "gardens" community. While in the midst of landscaping his new city in late 1960, he heard about a resident in a neighboring town who was being forced to cut down a Banyan tree in her yard. The tree was threatening the foundation of her home and damaging the street in front of her residence.
Mr. MacArthur had the idea of moving the tree and planting it at the entrance of the new city at the intersection of Northlake Boulevard and MacArthur Boulevard, formerly Garden Boulevard. The tree weighed 75 tons, was 60 feet high and had a limb spread of 125 feet. Because of its size, the city needed 6 months to prepare the tree for the move to its new location.
On the morning of April 26, 1961, John D. MacArthur sent 2 cranes to lift the tree onto 2 cargo trailers for the move to its new home 5 miles away. However, an unforeseen problem arose when a feed mill truck burst and spewed 10,000 gallons of molasses onto a roadway that was specially bulldozed to move the tree. The fill used to cover the spill raised the roadway just enough to make the tree hit and snap several railway signal lines which caused crossing gates to close for 8 miles. Additionally, a cable parted while the tree was being hoisted over 18-foot Western Union lines connecting southern Florida with the rest of the world. The tree dropped when one of the cables being used to hoist the tree over the train tracks snapped under the heavy strain of the tree. When the 1:30 p.m. train came down the tracks it was forced to stop and workmen quickly got busy sawing off the limbs of the tree to clear the tracks. Thirteen minutes later the train was on its way again.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the tree was dropped into the large hole that had been prepared. The Rev. A. P. Snyder of St. John's Evangelical Church said a prayer. Mr. MacArthur traveled with the entourage the whole trip and threw the first shovel of dirt over the roots of the tree. The entire process cost $30,000 and 1,008 hours of manpower. Approximately 1 year later, a second tree was moved to keep company with the first tree. It was a smaller tree weighing only 40 tons.
When people questioned the expense of moving older trees instead of planting new ones, Mr. MacArthur responded by saying, "I can buy anything but age. This tree will be the centerpiece of our entrance, and while we could plant a little one there, I wouldn't be around 80 years from now to see it as it should be". Mr. MacArthur's philosophy continues today, as the City Council and staff apply strict guidelines for landscaping and aesthetics in all current and future development. The 2 Banyan trees remain standing proudly at the entrance to the City of Palm Beach Gardens as a reminder to us all.