A quarter century of alleged abuse finally took its toll on a Mt. Auburn St. landmark yesterday, when city-commissioned landscapers cut down the historic tree in front of the One Freedom Square headquarters of The Harvard Lampoon.
The tree finally fell to the blades of the Cambridge Landscape Company at about 3:30 p.m, after what City Arborist Jack R. Kelley described as a systematic campaign of arboreal torture on the part of Lampoon members that had led to its demise.
The act of destruction drew immediate fire from former Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci, who said he had planted it some 25 years ago. "They're murderers," Vellucci told The Crimson. "That's my tree. They can't cut that down."
"I believe it's a big plot, a conspiracy between a whole lot of people to cut that tree down," he said. "That's how much power the Lampoon has."
Harvard lore has it that Lampoon members yearning for an unobstructed view of Mt. Auburn St, have repeatedly sought the tree's death over the years. Last year, officials of the semi-secret club, which is best known for its tireless and unceasing efforts at humor, asked the city to cut the tree down.
But Lampoon President Jon D. Beckerman '91 said yesterday that his organization had no involvement in yesterday's act of butchery.
"It doesn't have anything to do with us," Beckerman said. "I don't think it's even possible to call public works or the city arborist and say, `please cut down this tree.'"
When asked if anyone on the Lampoon had sought the tree's extinction, Beckerman said, "I guess different people want different things."
Kelley, however, expressed skeptic- ism when told that Beckerman had denied anyresponsibility for the tree's demise, describingthe Lampoon president's comments as "bullshit."
"Those nice little gentlemen at the Lampoontook it upon themselves to put an axe to thattree," Kelley said.
He said that the Lampoon staff had attacked thetree last year, about two-and-a-half months afterasking the city to cut it down. When removed, hesaid, the tree had about 140 axe marks, and anarea around its circumference had been completely"debarked." Some of the cuts were as deep as sixinches, he said.
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps lll said that"some persons--we do not know if they were membersof the Lampoon--attacked the tree...in effectkilling the tree."
"Despite vigorous efforts, we were not able tofind out who did it," Epps said.
Kelley, however, said that it was clear thatLampoon members were responsible.
Epps said that the Lampoon had agreed to payfor the tree's removal in the aftermath of lastyear's incident. He added that the organizationhad also agreed to make amends for the dark deedby planting another tree in its place, as well asnumber of others in the general vicinity