Saturday, December 11, 2010

History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Rockefeller Center, NY

 Here I am at Rockefeller Center and behind me is the 74 foot Norway Spruce from Mahopac, NY that was chosen for this year's tree.  The tallest tree to stand at Rockefeller Center was a 100 foot spruce used in 1999.
The very first tree to stand in this spot was only a 20 foot balsam fir in 1931 and was decorated with "strings of cranberries, garlands of paper and even a few tin cans" on Christmas Eve. The tree was put up by construction workers who had just started work on this magnificent place.  The actual tradition didn't really begin until 1933 when 30 Rockefeller Plaza first opened.  And so every year, except for 1932, there has been a tree standing at Rockefeller Center. 
First tree to stand in Rockefeller Plaza, 1931
 In 1936, two trees were put up to celebrate the opening of the skating rink.  There were three trees erected in 1942 to support the war, each one was trimmed with red, white and blue decorations.  In 1944, the trees remained unlit in keeping with wartime blackout regulations.  When the war ended the next year, organizers celebrated by using six ultraviolet light projectors to make 700 fluorescent globes appear to glow in the dark.

1951 was the year that NBC first televised the tree lighting on the Kate Smith Show.  During the years 1953 through 1955, the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony was broadcast from the Howdy Doody show.  Since that time, the tree lighting has become a tradition, usually broadcast from late November to early December, each with a number of celebrities popular during that particular year including, Bob Hope, Barbara Walters and Liza Minnelli.

In 1971, the tree was recycled and used as mulch for the nature trails in upper Manhattan.  In 2005, the tree was cut up and the lumber given to Habitat for Humanity to use as door frames for homes in New York, Louisiana, Brazil and India.

Ornaments for the trees changed as the years changed.  In 1934, the tree was hung with dogs, horses, giraffes, sailboats and stars along with 1,200 colored lights. Holiday songs were piped into a public address system and made it seem as if the tree was singing. During the 50's, the trees were spray painted white and trimmed with popcorn and cranberry garlands with 10 foot aluminum icicles. 

The tree was topped with a 4 foot plastic star and was used between the years 1950 through 1960.  A fiberglass and gold leaf star was used in the 1990's before being replaced by the 550-lb. Swarovski Star in 2004.

I will end here, but as usual, you can always learn more from these sites that I am including at the bottom of this blog.   Thanks to Wikipedia article and to a Time Magazine pictorial that I found on the web for the black and white shots.
The Time Magazine pictorial, "A Brief History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree".  Great shots and historical accounts.  Check it out.,29307,1863633_1809368,00.html 

Wikipedia article

Here is the link to Manhattan NY.  This explains the history of many different landmarks around NYC

and another article


  1. Thank you, Clyde and susan! Just love seeing and hearing about the history of this famous tree tradition!! Maybe I will get there someday!!

  2. Great blog, Clyde! Loved reading about the history of the tree! Thanks for posting!

    P.S. Love the shot of you in front of the tree!

  3. Thank you Clyde and Susan. I always wanted to spend part of the holiday season in New York and seeing the tree at Rockefeller Plaza.