The Tree That Owns Itself
Location: Athens, Georgia (corner of Finley & Dearing St.)
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours
Time needed: 5 minutes
Website: Wikipedia page (unofficial)
I feel like I’ve been writing about a lot of normal places lately. So it’s time for a new regular feature introducing some of the quirkiest attractions I’ve ever encountered.
Edition #1 focuses on The Tree That Owns Itself. Yes, it’s just as bizarre as it sounds.
The story apparently goes like this: In 1880, Colonel William H. Jackson decreed that a white oak on his property be deeded to itself, because he didn’t want it to be destroyed after he died.
So he filed a legal document and now the tree legally owns itself and the land within the eight feet surrounding it.
That probably wouldn’t hold up in a court of law (although with some of the wacky court decisions these days, who knows?)
But local folks recognize the deed and local authorities look after the tree. It has become a fun mascot or landmark.
The original tree fell in 1942, but a new one was planted from one of its acorns. So the one you see today is really descendant of Jackson’s original.
Now, it’s a large, thriving tree in the middle of a residential street.
How long might the Tree That Owns Itself live? Believe it or not, white oak trees can live up to 500-600 years in the proper conditions.
Even if this one doesn’t quite make it that long, it could still live well into the next century, if people respect it and Mother Nature doesn’t send in any powerful storms to uproot it.
The Junior Ladies Garden Club is currently taking responsibility for upkeep of the famous tree.
Visiting the Tree That Owns Itself in Athens
If you’d like to see the Tree that Owns Itself, head to the intersection of Finley and Dearing Streets in Athens. It’s a quiet neighborhood. You can park and walk over to see the tree up close.
You’ll find the tree, along with a stone marker with a quote from Jackson explaining the history of the site.
The tree has been featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not on multiple occasions over the years. It ranks as one of Georgia’s most unique attractions, even if it might not have the national cachet of places like the Georgia Aquarium and Coca Cola Museum.
Athens, Georgia tourism has its own page dedicated to the tree, which proudly notes, “Its property rights have never been questioned.”
This is one of the wackier quirky roadside attractions I’ve come across. Aside from the tree and the stone, there’s not much to see here, so you won’t need more than a few minutes at the site.
The Tree That Owns Itself is part of the Dearing Street Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So technically, this tree is part of history!
Of course, the tree has its own Facebook page, where you can see images of the tree in various seasons, including its snow-covered winter view. If you ask me, that tree is just out for publicity!
While you’re in Athens, look around for the colorful bulldog statues that can be found around the city, in honor of the University of Georgia.
And consider making the hour-ish drive to Atlanta to check out hotspots like the Martin Luther King Historic Site, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Coca-Cola Museum, and the Georgia Aquarium.
Would you be interested in seeing the tree that owns itself?