Pipe and Foundry Water Oak


Tree Location


2109 Randolph Rd
Charlotte, NC 28208

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Thirty years ago, before the booming of banks, and the annexation of land from the institutions known as Presbyterian and Carolinas hospitals, the scene along Randolph Road was much different. This tree lined boulevard was a quiet neighborhood of modest bungalows and cottages. In contrast, the area known today as 'South End' was an industrial wasteland. The financial hard times of the 70s and early 80s left factories and warehouses abandoned. Crime was high. The scene, bleak.

Throughout all of this Charlotte Pipe and Foundry was booming. Founded in 1901 to supplement the need for plumbing in the post Civil War South, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry grew to be one of the world's largest providers of pipe and fittings. The company wanted to move their administrative offices away from their main plant on South Clarkson St to a more picturesque area. After a brief search a parcel of land was located at 2109 Randolph Rd.

It was important to maintain the look and feel of the neighborhood. This meant saving as many trees as possible on site. An arborist by the name of Jack McNeary was called. Jack grew up in Charlotte, and received a degree in botany from Duke University. Jack's true passion was trees, and in 1966 he began his own company. In the early 80's McNeary Arborists was one of the few companies dedicated exclusively to caring for and preserving trees in town. Charlotte was smaller back then, and by growing up here Jack was well known and well liked.

Upon reviewing the site Jack picked a handful of trees worth trying to protect during construction. Some pecans towards the rear of the property would create shade for the proposed parking area, a maple and an elm on the Eastern side, and a 30 inch diameter water oak at the front of the property were among some of the trees worth saving.

Some of the first tree protection zones in Charlotte were erected around these trees. Throughout construction, while everything on site was leveled, nothing made it through the wood and post fences McNeary Arborists erected to keep the root zones of the trees safe. Jack would stop by periodically to keep an eye on his work. In Charlotte during the early 80s, the idea of putting a fence around the dripline of a tree for protection against stress created by soil disturbance was quite novel.

Three decades later the pecans are still creating shade, and look pretty much the same as they did in 1982 after construction. Meanwhile the water oak, now over 60 inches in diameter, has become a fixture of the property. The tree has survived hurricanes and ice storms, though they have left scars. Strands of copper wire protect the tree against lightning strikes. It flares at the base with burls and reaction wood, signs of an ongoing battle against internal decay. Jack McNeary, now retired, still stops by to check on the tree. Jack has touched many trees in our city, but the water oak on Randolph has always been something special. It is without doubt Jack's love for and knowledge of trees saved a specimen that would have certainly met its fate at the end of a bulldozer, and allowed to become a true jewel of the Queen's Crown.

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