Giant Sycamore That Led the Way Begins New Chapter in San Jose’s History

More History on the Sycamore Sentinel From the Northside Neighborhood Association

Photos by Dorian Silva Sentinel moves into San Jose History Park.

Early visitors to San Jose who traveled in carriages and stagecoaches knew they had reached their destination when they saw a giant tree in the distance.

The 100-foot-tall Western Sycamore on North 21st Street, known as the Sentinel Tree, became a part of San Jose’s history from a tiny pueblo to the capitol of Silicon Valley.

As the Northside Neighborhood grew, a home at 590 North 21st Street was built under its enormous branches.  , the tree believed to be 260 years old had to come down.  Old age had hallowed its core, threatening the home it shaded.

Sentinel shades hotel in 1904.

On Thursday, January 19, the Sentinel found a new home at San Jose History Park in the form of a clone. Several cuttings from the tree were nurtured in pots, until they grew into trees. One was planted in Watson Park, and the other in front of History Park’s Greenwalt House, which houses an exhibit of the Boat People and Republic of Vietnam. The site has plenty of space, water and sunshine.

“The DNA of that tree is still very much alive,” said City Arborist Ralph Mize as the 10-foot tree was being placed into its new location.  “This would be a clone.”

Wendel Cox operates machine to set tree in place.

He added, “What better place in San Jose than a museum that is dedicated to showing San Jose’s history.”

Ralph Mize and Sandra Tamm take a turn at filling the hole.

Also on hand for the planting were Sandra Tamm, a Master Gardner who nurtured the cutting into a clone in her backyard and Wendel Cox, a Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services employee who removed the big tree when he worked for a private company.

The job was “pretty labor intensive,” he said. Helping to plant the clone was much more rewarding.

“I get the opportunity to preserve history,” he said.