About the Property
Explore a picturesque pond, ancient pine tree, and trails that wind through the woods at Bretzfelder Memorial Park. The Forest Society offers the Bretzfelder Park Family Educational Lecture Series at the park every August and February (for more information, check our events calendar or contact the The Rocks).
Several trails loop through Bretzfelder Park, allowing quiet exploration of the property in all seasons.
Please see our Visitor Use Guidelines page for a complete list of rules and regulations for Forest Society reservations
The central focus of Bretzfelder Park is a giant white pine tree, estimated to be more than 200 years old. In the late 1800s, when Bethlehem was a haven for city folks seeking the clean air of the mountains, the tree became a popular place for visitors, who would wander down the quiet road and relax beneath the tree's branches, enjoying picnics in the quiet beauty of the forest.
One man in particular came to love the tree. Charles Bretzfelder, a New York lawyer, spent many summers in the White Mountains, and in 1920 purchased the property surrounding the great white pine tree. He built a summer cottage there and spent his days walking in the cool mountain air, swimming in the chilly brook, and resting in the shade of the pine tree. When a nearby tree fell and crashed into the giant white pine, Bretzfelder hired tree surgeons to patch his tree's wounds, remove dead branches, install retaining bars, and fix a cable to an overhanging branch. The patient emerged undaunted and continues today to soar above its younger neighbors.
So special was the tree to Bretzfelder that he wanted it to be his final resting place. Following his death in 1943, Bretzfelder's ashes were scattered around the base of the tree, and his family unveiled a memorial plaque that reads, "May his wisdom and light forever shine upon this earth."
Bretzfelder's family hired "keepers of the tree" for many years. In 1979, Bretzfelder's daughter, Helen, bequeathed the tree and surrounding 17 acres to the Forest Society as a memorial park. The Forest Society is dedicated to its role as the modern keeper of the tree and steward of the accompanying 77-acre property, which is maintained as a community park and natural history resource.