“Once there was a tree,” wrote Shel Silverstein in his 1964 book “The Giving Tree,” one of the top-selling children’s books of all time. Ironically, a tree will be the end of Silverstein’s legacy in Key West. His former home at 618 William Street suffered irreparable damage from a large banyan tree that fell directly on the 1901 wooden two-story house during Hurricane Irma. (Adding to the irony, banyans are also referred to as “strangler figs”). Luckily, the grand tree has not been cut down for a purpose, as Silverstein meaningfully wrote; instead, it has been pulled back into place in the hope it will regrow. Sadly, Silverstein’s home will undoubtedly be demolished.
Silverstein bought the house in the ’80s and died there from a heart attack in 1999, cementing his Key West literary status. He may not be as commonly referenced as Hemingway but the eclectic and charismatic writer etched his way into the collective memories of American children since the ’60s with books like “Where The Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic” and he also won a Grammy for the song “A Boy Named Sue,” sung by Johnny Cash.
Maybe Silverstein was prophetic. In saving the old tree, the story still goes: “And the tree was happy. The End.”