If This Tree Could Talk

August 30, 2017

This is the story of a tree. A tree at Federal Way High School in the City of Federal Way.

How many students, teachers and community members did it touch?

What might the tree say, if it could talk?

Students and teachers are heading back to school, and it's given me a moment to reflect on SRG's current work in Federal Way. Schools carry the history of a community, but these institutions are constantly changing as they meet new challenges and needs. How can we preserve history while building for the future?

In 2014, Federal Way Public Schools began building a new high school. The replacement school is located on the site of the existing FWHS, which has played a historic role for the City of Federal Way. This site was home to a school long before there was even a city called Federal Way and even before the construction of what is now Pacific Hwy/US-99. It was once just a county road built for the Military known as Federal Way. A school on this site launched the Federal Way School District in the 1930’s and later became the namesake of the city.

While scouting the location, faculty asked if all the trees would be lost as a result of the new construction. These old trees are irreplaceable and a part of the community's history.

We strove to save this gorgeous, hundred-year-old tree.

Follow along this brief photographic story and consider what this tree might have seen -- and has yet to see.

Construction required thoughtful phasing, sequenced demolition and temporary facilities to keep students (and trees) safely on site. The tree was protected during each season throughout each phase.

This small story within the larger story of building a new high school has given me a moment to reflect. I can't help but feel sentimental about the things we pass down to our children, to the future generation. There's a poetry to what we build and what we save.

Once there was a tree....
and she loved a little boy.
And every day the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk
and swing from her branches

And when he was tired,
he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree....very much.
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
And the boy grew older.

And after a long time
the boy came back again.

"I don't need very much now," said the boy.
"just a quiet place to sit and rest.

Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest."
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.

Excerpted from Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

Barney Mansavage