Legend #1 – The Liberty Tree’s Original Location
Central Florida has changed a lot in 50 years and “roughly 6 miles south” is a lot of ground to cover. There’s really no way to know for sure where the Liberty Tree originally came from.
However, the search did yield some rather interesting facts.
For one thing, if you draw a line 6 miles south from the Liberty Tree’s current location in Liberty Square, you reach almost the exact southern border of Walt Disney World.
More to the point, you reach US 192, the most popular corridor in Kissimmee and easily one of the most over-developed tourist blocks that have sprung up around Disney World since 1971.
Drive a couple miles to the east and you’ll hit the Disney town of Celebration. Keep going and you’ll end up in Downtown Kissimmee, where Parkeology discovered the long-lost Epcot double decker bus.
But in this one small area surrounding US 192, the land remains surprisingly undeveloped. It is still swamp and forest — an untamed wilderness sandwiched between a Bob Evans and the I-4 interchange. Just to the east of this area is Disney’s All-Stars Resort.
Our 6-mile line ends literally on the banks of the vaunted Reedy Creek–a name which should be very familiar to Parkeologists.
Did the Liberty Tree come from this quiet, secluded area? We have no way of knowing for sure, but it’s nice to think so.
Legend #2 – The Quercus Virginiana Tree Graft
Following up on Birnbaum’s challenge, I made an expedition to the Magic Kingdom to study the Liberty Tree and see if it might still be possible to spot the tree graft, and of course the dowel rod holes from the the transplant.
By now the tree has been growing in Liberty Square for more than five decades. While it looks even more majestic than it did on Opening Day, I was dismayed to find that all evidence of the tree graft seems to have vanished.
It may be possible to imagine where the second tree was added in. But there are no interruptions or variances in the bark patterns. Each branch seems as seamlessly integrated as the next.
More than once, my eye was fooled into seeing two separate trees. But this turned out to be fool’s gold. In order to power the lanterns with electricity at night, a black power cable snakes its way up one side of the tree. At a quick glance, this clearly seems to be the bisection of two distinct trees. But it is nothing more than an optical illusion upon closer inspection.
Color variations on the tree appear to be due almost entirely to which section of the tree gets the most sun. There is a noticeable black ichor coating the southern-facing section of the trunk. But this part is clearly in shade almost year-round, hemmed in by Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe and the Liberty Tree Tavern.
Finally, much to my disappointment, I can see no physical evidence of holes having been bored into the trunk at any point. It seemed my quest to reveal the lost secrets of the Liberty Tree had been brought to naught.
But then, just when all seemed lost, an amazing stroke of luck revived all my hopes.
It came from a most unexpected source and from a place I would never have thought to look.
Legend #3 – The Liberty Tree Dowel Rod Holes
It was on a lunch break that I found myself strolling through Disney Springs, on the way to The Blaze pizza place.
This corner of Disney Springs is often quiet, even though The Blaze and D-Luxe Burger are both ostensibly some of the more popular fast food locations.
I don’t go to D-Luxe Burger very often. My very first experience was with fellow Parkeologist Ted, when we dined here the day after a Parkeology Challenge. My favorite memory of that visit is Ted ranting about the quality of the burger relative to its price. Otherwise the food is somewhat forgettable. However, the restaurant itself does have some nice theming.
Though it is pure fiction — an invention of Imagineers — D-Luxe Burger purports to be a building left over from a Central Florida cattle ranch , along with similar “old” buildings in Disney Springs. The theming inside the restaurant is fairly detailed and comprehensive.
But what startled me most about this particular restaurant on this particular day is a piece of theming outside the restaurant.
Something that made me stop dead in my tracks.
In Disney Springs, right outside the D-Luxe Burger, is a second Liberty Tree.
I could not believe my eyes. It’s right there, a quercus virginiana if I ever saw one. Hanging from its boughs are several lanterns.
I counted them. And then just to make sure, I counted them again. There are 14 lanterns hanging from this oak tree. One more than in Liberty Square.
And okay, it’s not really a Liberty Tree. The backstory of D-Luxe Burger says that it used to be part of the Glowing Oak Ranch. And that really explains everything. The presence of a Virginia live oak outside, with electric lanterns dangling from the limbs.
The very name Glowing Oak is one of those mysterious Disney names itself, tangentially connecting to something we may cover in a future Parkeology article.
But for all intents and purposes, the Glowing Oak is a blood brother to that fine old specimen all the way across property in the Magic Kingdom, the Liberty Tree.
Right down to the…
Bore holes! There they are, neat as can be, right in the trunk as Bill Evans described.
Rest assured, they go all the way through the trunk. I double checked to make sure they come out the back.
What started as a random passage in an old Magic Kingdom souvenir book has led us on a journey across fifty years and the entire breadth of the Walt Disney World property. From its northern most theme park, to its southern most border, all the way to its eastern gate at Disney Springs.
Along the way we encountered two Disney Legends, a breadcrumb trail of souvenir books, and even one exciting cameo by a member of the Disney family.
All that for some holes drilled through a tree.
Yeah, it was worth it.