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Death of trees causes grief to Patterson’s funeral home

By Maria Saporta

On Saturday, a majestic tree on the front lawn of the H.M. Patterson & Sons – Spring Hill Chapel funeral home was cut down — causing grief to those who usually are there to console.

“My heart is aching,” said John Gallatin, funeral director and location manager for H.M. Patterson. “It was one of the three original trees that had been planted in 1928.”

After his father died in 1923, Fred Patterson inherited the business and decided “to construct a funeral home on a hill, overlooking trees in honor of his father and in tribute to his English-born mother,” according to the funeral home’s website.

Photo by Tony Wilbert

The website also states that the building was designed by famous Atlanta architect Philip Shutze who wanted it to resemble an old English manor house. By 1929, three oak trees had been planted on the front lawn.

Gallatin said he doesn’t know what happened to the first of three willow oaks that adorned the property. The second went down in a storm about five years ago.

An arborist came out to trim the limbs of the last remaining oak, and Gallatin was told that it had a root fungus and that it needed to come down.

“I called in three different arborists, and they all said the same thing,” Gallatin said, adding that he went through the various stages of grieving, including denial and then acceptance. “They are like people.”

Finally, the tree was cut down this past weekend.

Photo by Tony Wilbert

“I’ve been in mourning ever since,” Gallatin said, adding that two other trees that were dead in the back yard of the home also were cut down.

Marcia Bansley, founder and executive director of Trees Atlanta, said Patterson’s had received approval from the city’s head arborist, Ainsley Caldwell, to remove the three trees because they were hazardous. In that situation, there is no requirement to replace the trees.

“Even though they had permission to remove the trees, the loss of their beauty makes me sick and takes a lot of the charm away from the building,” Bansley said. “I hope they will replace the very large oak and another one this winter when it is the correct time to replant. The beautiful trees brought a lot of comfort to those whose relatives had funerals at Patterson’s. The building and the trees were an icon for Atlanta citizens, and replanting the trees will help to restore the special charm of the place.”

Gallatin said that a landscaper has been hired to look at what should be done with the land.

“We are going to replant a tree,” he said. “I just don’t know when or where.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Midtown tree planter July 28, 2010 11:35 am

    Sad, but not surprising.
    The stress from years upon years of drought, made much worse by the heat island effect of the Midtown commercial corridor causing most rain to bypass the area, makes it much worse for Midtown trees than elsewhere. So now what few new trees are planted don’t stand a chance of becoming well-established and thus healthy, long-lived trees. Fewer trees, fewer green patches, more heat, less rain, more air pollution (no trees nor rain to clean the air).
    I still can’t believe that the best looking (healthy) trees in the Midtown commercial corridor were cut down to make way for putting up fancy street lights along 14th Street.Report

  2. Yr1215 July 30, 2010 1:15 pm

    MTP, you’re crazy. I know of several healthy big trees in Midtown. And I think improving the streetscaping is a very good idea. While we should do things to mitigate the heat island effect, its not killing all the trees.

    You’re on the same page as the people who don’t believe global warming exists because it gets cold in the winter. Extrapolating a trend from one data point is absurd.Report

  3. Streetscape Facts July 31, 2010 10:25 am

    MTP, if by “the best looking (healthy) trees” you mean the ones in front of One Atlantic Center, it was the new storm sewer installed by GDOT that took the trees out, not the fancy street lights. However, the real shame along 14th Street is Georgia Power’s high-voltage transmission lines. Georgia Power’s easement grants them the right to chop the tops off all those trees so they don’t suddenly (and magically) grow up into the lines.Report


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