Striking Canopy of Oak Trees
Aiken’s beauty is undoubtedly one of the town’s most appealing aspects. Adorned with a wide variety of blooming trees and plants, Aiken’s lush foliage creates an almost park-like atmosphere that impresses visitors and helps residents appreciate each passing season. Throughout the town’s history, several residents have been credited with encouraging Aiken’s beautification.
In 1877 Dr. Benjamin Teague, a local dentist, began a personal mission of overseeing the planting of about 100 water oaks and elms around the town. Throughout his life, he worked to realize his vision of a "park-like" city by endowing Aiken with many more trees of diverse varieties.
An attorney named Henry Dibble came to Aiken in the early 1880s after learning of its reputation as a health resort. Dibble originally visited from his home state of Michigan and enjoyed his stay so much that he made Aiken his permanent residence.
A More Beautiful Commute
His new venture was a dairy farm in the vale of Montmorenci (just six miles from the town of Aiken). Around the same time, he also became the president of the Bank of Aiken, a job that required him to drive to and from town by way of the South Boundary boulevard. Just as Teague had before him, Dibble was inspired to beautify the daily commute to and from his thriving Montmorenci farm. He decided to create an “avenue” of live oaks to line the boulevard that he traveled so often. Perhaps he was encouraged by the efforts of individual homeowners who planted azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, loropetalums and wisterias in the wide boulevard parkways.
Between 1877 and 1900, the Aiken Town Council authorized the planting of about 500 hardwood trees along the streets and avenues. Three Aiken mayors have been linked to the planting of the “Avenue of Oaks”—Herman Warneke, Julian Salley, Sr. and Herbert Gyles. One can assume that the combined efforts of all these men resulted in the breath-taking aisle of live oaks that South Boundary travelers experience today.
A live oak is an evergreen type of oak, with foliage year-round. These trees “live” throughout the winter, while other oaks lose their leaves and are dormant during the colder months of the year. Live oaks originally came from the more temperate areas of Asia and Europe. Today, the specific type of tree that creates the Avenue of Oaks on South Boundary is commonly known as the “Southern Live Oak” and is the official state tree of Georgia.
During the days when horse-drawn carriages were the main mode of transportation, young women would drive their buggies under the canopy of overhanging live oaks in an effort to be noticed by eligible fellows, according to stories told about South Boundary.
Today, the stately umbrella arches formed by the branches and leaves of the live oaks planted so long ago impress all who travel the road.