Tree removal to mark revival of James Arnold Mansion

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NEW BEDFORD — Chainsaws will be on the grounds of the former Wamsutta Club next week as improvements begin to reflect the character of the mansion built by James Arnold in 1821.

Landscape architect Paul R.V. Pawlowski has been retained by the nonprofit James Arnold Mansion Inc. to rethink the property that is now mostly an asphalt parking lot. The goal is to bring back (at least part of) the verdant gardens and grottoes that Arnold built a name on.

But first things first. Pawlowski zeroed in on a small cluster of trees on the north side of the property, where some large oaks stand along with a couple of red maples and a dogwood have grown in.

Pawlowski looked at the trees and said, “those three oaks have to come down,” especially because one of them had the top half broken off in whatever storm came by in recent years. “They’re dangerous,” he added.

This story (by Steve Urbon) first appeared in the Standard Times – HERE

The trees, especially the oaks, pose a threat to passersby on the nearby city sidewalk, he said. The trees have been further endangered by the asphalt of the parking lot being directly above their roots.

Pawlowski produced an engraving of a hut-shaped grotto that once existed on the property. He said his plan is to save much of the timber from the three oaks and use it to build a replica of the structure in the engraving. The James Arnold Mansion Inc., an official nonprofit since September, will likely appeal to the city to reduce the size of the building’s parking lots to allow the rebuilding of some of the gardens to get a feel for what it was like when Arnold had all 11 acres in botanical splendor.

Apart from the trees that will be removed, there are about 30 more on the grounds that are mostly in need of pruning and nurturing. The organization is about to launch a fundraising drive, in a sort of adopt-a-tree fashion, that will soon be posted online to involve the community in the refurbishing the mansion and the grounds.

Richard Asquino, president of the organization, said the mansion is suffering from deferred maintenance, with cracks in the exterior brick structure, and needs replacements of heating and electrical systems.

The total cost will be about a half million dollars, Asquino told The Standard-Times.

Pawlowski said the plans for the mansion and grounds are a reversal of the character of the Wamsutta Club, which for generations existed as an elite private club with the objective of being exclusive and shutting out the rest of the world.

The new nonprofit has as its mission statement: “To preserve, restore and maintain the historic James Arnold mansion and real property located at 427 County St. for the public’s enjoyment, to educate the public about the history of the mansion and the Arnold family, and their role in the history of New Bedford and Massachusetts, also to invite the public to explore history, culture, architecture, arts, etc. through educational programming, exhibits, performances and other activities.”

The new owners, who lease the building to the Wamsutta Club, plan to evoke the aesthetic of the era of 1821, when the Arnolds would impress their guests with the beauty of the gardens, and especially opening them up to the public on Sundays.

The maintenance of the remaining trees will be the first priority this year with plans to begin work on a landscape master plan that evokes the spirit of the Arnolds.

This story (by Steve Urbon) first appeared in the Standard Times – HERE