The Grinch may have been unsuccessful in stealing Christmas, but Mother Nature has toppled the National Christmas Tree.
For the past 32 years a Colorado blue spruce planted on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. has served as the official National Christmas Tree, but the tree was a victim to gusty winds last weekend and will have to be replaced.
The tree, a 42-footer, was moved to the location near the White House in October 1978 from a farm belonging to the Myers family near York, Pennsylvania. The tree had first been placed in the Myers’ front yard as a Mother’s Day gift for Mrs. Myers, where it had been tended and watered by her grandchildren. It came to the attention of NPS horticulturists, and the Myers agreed to let it be relocated to Washington to serve as a living Christmas tree for the nation.
The tree was felled around 11 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, February 19th. Sustained winds of 25 mph were blowing at the times, with gusts up to 50 mph.
An NPS spokesman noted, "The National Christmas Tree has witnessed much during more than three decades on the Ellipse. Six Presidents and their families have lived in the White House, lighting the tree each year with a message of peace for the world. Millions of people have seen the tree as they viewed the White House and its south grounds. Near the tree, hundreds of thousands of Americans have exercised their First Amendment rights to demonstrate for and against a wide variety of causes. Local softball and soccer games have been played in the tree’s shadow."
Although the site in the Ellipse has been used for the tree since 1978, previous National Christmas Trees had been located in Sherman Park, immediately south of the Treasury building, at Lafayette Park and on the White House grounds.
NPS maintenance workers began cutting and mulching the remains of the tree last Saturday. The Service has identified a successor tree and will announce later this spring when the new tree will be transplanted to the Ellipse to become the new National Christmas Tree.