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A Colorado tree grows in Washington

Brief by Central Staff

Forestry – January 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

The “Millennium Holiday Tree” — perhaps more familiarly known as this year’s White House Christmas Tree — came from Pike-San Isabel National Forest in Central Colorado.

The 65-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce near Woodland Park was selected two years ago, when Colorado got the chance to supply the tree.

The 77-year-old tree was felled in late November, and transported by truck to Washington, D.C., with U.S. Sen. Ben Campbell doing some of the driving and getting acres of publicity in the process. The date scheduled for lighting the tree this year was Dec. 11.

As an experiment to preserve the tree in transit, it was shrink-wrapped by a Monte Vista company. Each county in Colorado has also contributed a smaller tree; these go to congressional offices and the like.

The Colorado State Forest Service has grown about 120 two-year-old seedlings from the big tree. Some will be replanted at the site, although one went to the state capitol so that Gov. Bill Owens could plant it last Arbor Day.

This area has furnished a White House Christmas Tree before. It was Colorado’s turn to supply a tree in 1962, and the first choice was a blue spruce from Cottonwood Creek near Buena Vista.

Alas, the tree broke when the crane was lifting it, and so the Forest Service quickly found a substitute from the Silver Creek area southwest of Salida (that’s where this year’s tree at Colorado Central world headquarters came from, too).

The Silver Creek tree was transported by rail to Washington, where President John F. Kennedy lit the “Christmas Peace Tree” on Dec. 17, 1962.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the first President to display a Christmas Tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce in 1856.

The Christmas Tree, like Santa Claus, is of German origins, and historians credit its arrival in America to Hessian mercenaries imported by British King George III to fight against the American revolutionaries.

That enemy origin might explain why John Adams of Massachusetts, first president to live in the White House, didn’t put up a tree.