Wood Whacked by ’Poon Cut Clean

Just outside the Harvard Lampoon castle, there’s a stump where a tree used to be.

The victim, a Donald Wyman crabapple, was one of three trees to have survived an attempt to cut it down by an editor of the Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine.

James A. Powers ’08 was arrested on Oct. 14 for slashing the trees on the island with a handsaw. He was arraigned last week on charges of vandalizing property and released on personal recognizance by the judge, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

The crabapple wasn’t so lucky. Last Friday, Powers, who is listed near the top of the Lampoon’s masthead, called a Crimson reporter’s cell phone at about 10 a.m. and said, “You should go check out the island.”

By then, only four of the original five trees were still standing—two with saw marks still on them.

Work on the island will be completed later this week when a short, wrought-iron border is put up around the perimeter, said Rebecca Fuentes, community relations manager for public construction in Cambridge. There are no immediate plans to replace the trees, she said.

The traffic island, located in the middle of Mt. Auburn Street, was constructed this fall at the end of the first phase of a renovation project around Harvard Square, Fuentes said. The project also included the refurbishing of several sidewalks, drainage work in Brattle Square, and adjustments to the crosswalk outside Johnston Gate. The first phase cost between $6 and $7 million, of which Harvard contributed $1.3 million, said Mary H. Power, the University’s senior director of community relations.

Businesses around the new island responded favorably to the new trees, Fuentes said.

“I don’t know why they would cut them down,” Neil Cohen, an optician whose office is across from the island, said in an interview. “They’re not in the way of anything.”

In planning the Harvard Square renovation, the potential danger of putting a tree in front of the Lampoon Castle appeared to have been raised in a May 2003 planning meeting.

“Don’t put tree in front of Lampoon,” said one bullet point in a list of notes about improving Lampoon Plaza.

Trees in front of the Lampoon castle had been attacked in the past. But no one in the Public Works Department expected a problem, Fuentes said.

“I looked down the street, and I found it to be a tasteful piece of landscaping,” she said.

Lampoon President Ross E. Arbes ’08 declined to comment, saying, “I can’t speak for the entire Lampoon.”