One of Aiken's top attractions has been open to the public at no charge for more than a century.
The canopy of oak trees along a one-mile stretch of South Boundary Avenue has been part of the city's identity since the late 1800s.
"They really help identify the town, and it's just a good thing to celebrate our unique identity. We need to do more of that," said Sandra Korbelik , who works in the city planning department.
The oaks recently won the 2005 Heritage Tree Award from the South Carolina Urban and Community Forestry Council.
"Your letter of nomination indicates the great value that generations of Aiken citizens have placed on this well-designed, well-maintained allee of oaks," stated Daniel Burbage , the chairman of the Heritage Tree Committee, in a letter to Mayor Fred Cavanaugh.
The program was developed in 2004 to identify, celebrate and recognize South Carolina trees that evoke community spirit. The forestry council plans to cast a bronze plaque to honor the city and the oak trees.
"The idea is to celebrate a tree that's in a community that the community appreciates and perhaps has a history to it," Mrs. Korbelik said.
The live oaks are believed to have been planted around 1877, according to city documents.
That year the town council authorized the planting of about 500 hardwood trees along Aiken's streets and avenues, according to St. Thaddeus of Aiken, by H. Addison McClearen and S. Owen Sheetz.
Henry Dibble, then the president of the Bank of Western Carolina, is credited with leading the effort to plant the oaks.
Dibble, a civic-minded man for whom Dibble Memorial Library and Dibble Road were named, lived in Montmorenci. He traveled along South Boundary on his way to and from work, and undoubtedly wanted to improve the scenery on his daily commute, wrote Will Cole in The Many Faces of Aiken.
There are 122 oaks remaining from the original planting on both sides of the thoroughfare.
About 100 new oaks were planted along South Boundary in the early 1990s to fill in gaps along the road and to create a tree canopy on other streets in the area.
Ten of the oaks are 20 to 29 inches in diameter; 43 measure 30 to 39 inches thick; 47 are 40 to 49 inches ; and 15 measure 50 to 59 inches. The trunks of seven of the oaks span 60 to 69 inches.
Tourists often stop in South Boundary driveways to take photographs of the street, Mrs. Korbelik said.
The image of the oaks also is featured on items ranging from note cards to paintings to license plates, she said.
"These trees are so symbolic of Aiken," Mrs. Korbelik said.
Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.