Some people will do anything to save a tree


By Megan James

In strong winds, the sugar gum tree that grows through the roof of Erol and Semra Liguori’s Fieldston home used to sway, gently bowing the bedroom wall it leaned against. From their bed on stormy nights, the Ligouris could watch their house give in to the whims of the massive tree.

“It was pretty spooky, actually,” Mr. Liguori said. “Kind of like a cartoon.”

That’s when they knew they had to do something.

This was three years ago, and cutting down the tree wasn’t really an option. Since the Liguoris bought the house, at 4538 Greystone Ave., in 1993, the sugar gum has been a beloved part of the community. On weekends Mr. Liguori still sees people gathered at the edge of his property, peering over the hedges to get a better look.

The grand sugar gum rises through a circular hole on the rear side of the house’s slanted roof, brushing past a bedroom window and towering above the cul-desac below. From certain angles, it looks as though the house has the tree held hostage; from others, it’s clear the tree is in command.

Back when the sugar gum was shaking the house at night, the Liguoris found its trunk had grown too wide for its roof cut-out. But rather than alter the tree to save their house, they called a construction company to widen the hole in their roof and install a copper lining, hoping the tree had seen the most of its growth spurt.

The Liguoris never thought twice about moving into a house with a tree growing through its roof. They first set foot in the 1924 home as guests at a friend’s party in 1989. They had been looking for a house since getting married five years earlier, but hadn’t found anything that felt right.

“That night, we fell in love with this little house,” Mr. Liguori said.

And it wasn’t just the sugar gum, though that certainly added a dose of magic to an already enchanting house. They loved the sloping roof, covered in an intricate pattern of old Pennsylvania slates, the little circular window with a stained-glass spider web on the back door and the small cave — which Mr. Liguori uses for quiet contemplation — built off the side of the back patio.

Four years after that party, Mrs. Liguori was looking through The Riverdale Press and flipped to a picture of the house — it was for sale. She and her husband went over to the house that night, made an offer and made it their own.

Since widening the hole in the roof three years ago, the walls of the Liguoris’ house have been calm.

“We’re good probably another 10 years,” Mr. Liguori said. “But [the hole] can’t get too much wider.”