By the mid-1970s the last couple of great elm trees on the Oval were dying. Once, eight or nine “wine glass” elms stood strong, providing a green canopy over the shops and historic buildings of Union Square. However, between 1930 and 1990, 75% of the 77 million American elm trees in the United States were felled by Dutch Elm disease and Milford’s towering trees were no exception.
On a Saturday morning in September 1976, passers-by might have noticed a few volunteers from the Milford Conservation Commission using a 16-gallon tank and bicycle pump to inject something into the trunks of the dying elms. It was Lignasan BLP, a chemical fungicide that environmentalists (and Town Hall) hoped would combat what was killing the trees. It quickly became clear, however, that the disease had spread too far, and that the last-ditch treatment would not be effective.
The photo here is from October of 1978, when the Asplundh Tree Company took some six hours to remove the last of the giant elms that had stood for 100 years or more. One hopes that perhaps a century from now, the new generation of trees on the Oval might provide a canopy of their own.