By Mike Ryan
What began as a successful, influential Ohio politician and businessman’s 140-acre rural retreat has grown over the past century to become a nearly 2,000 acre preserve highlighting a unique array of plant life at The Dawes Arboretum in Licking County.
Beman Dawes and his wife, Bertie, first purchased the original tract in 1917. By 1929, when Dawes Arboretum was established, the grounds had doubled in size and over 50,000 trees had been planted. In present times, the immense arboretum, home to an enormous index of different plant species, is one of only 20 fully accredited arboretums in North America.
The Dawes family obtained trees from across the globe that could thrive in central Ohio and planted them around the property. They established the arboretum to both educate and inspire. When Beman and Bertie created the private foundation, they wanted “to encourage the planting of forest and ornamental trees…to give pleasure to the public and education to the youth.”
Luke Messinger, executive director of The Dawes Arboretum, said that the location was well-chosen for this purpose and that this collection of trees continues to grow and prosper over 100 years after the Dawes family’s initial purchase of their central Ohio grounds.