At the corner of Monroe and Crawford Streets, in Elisabeth Ireland Poe Park, you’ll find Thomasville’s oldest resident. This particular local is 68 feet tall and is over 330 years old. If you guessed that this illustrious Thomasville inhabitant is the massive tree known affectionately as the Big Oak, then you’d be right! And if you’re in Thomasville, it’s a must-see attraction.
The Big Oak started its life as a humble acorn around the year 1680, meaning that when the Declaration of Independence was being signed it was already nearly 100 years old! It is a southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and is called a “live oak” because it keeps its leaves throughout the winter. These iconic trees are one of the symbols of the South. In fact, the southern live oak is the official state tree of Georgia.
The Big Oak’s surrounding park is a great place to relax, have a picnic, and marvel at this wonder of nature. A historic gazebo in the park hosts community events, and many couples have even chosen to take their wedding vows beneath this majestic tree.
One noted fan of the Big Oak was President Eisenhower who frequently came to Thomasville to golf, hunt, and unwind. On one of his trips, the president insisted on personally photographing it. Today, you too can be like Ike and photograph the Big Oak yourself. You can even try to get as much of it as possible into a selfie. Or you can let the Big Oak Cam capture the experience for you. Simply call the Big Oak Cam number (229-236-0053) when posing by the white sign near the tree and an elevated camera across the street will snap a photo of you and upload it to a website that will allow you to download and share your moment with family and friends.
In addition to being roughly the height of a six-story building, the Big Oak also has a limb span of over 165 feet. And the circumference of its trunk measures more than 26.5 feet. Due to their massive size, some of the Big Oak’s limbs are in danger of breaking. Tree doctors have rigged an artificial support apparatus using wires to help prevent this. In addition, the tree has suffered some trauma over the years, as more than one large truck has collided with it or one of its branches. Valuing its preservation, the city of Thomasville has installed a sprinkler system for its benefit and keeps a tree surgeon on call for any Big Oak-related emergencies.
Southern live oak trees can live to be over 1,000 years old, so with proper care, the Big Oak could be around to give joy to tourists and locals alike for centuries to come!