One evening this week I paid a visit to the Capitol Christmas Tree, which is situated on the West Front lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year the tree traveled all the way from the Newport Ranger District of the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington state, arriving at the Capitol in late November. It was lit during a ceremony on December 3.
The website of the Architect of the Capitol has information on the history and tradition of a Christmas tree being placed at the Capitol. It seems there had occasionally been such trees standing at the Capitol before 1964, but that was the year that more formal annual procedures were put in place, initiated by then Speaker of the House John W. McCormack. Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has been responsible for cutting and maintaining the tree, although the endeavor is funded through sponsorship arrangements.
Apparently this year’s tree, at 88 feet, is the second-tallest tree ever used at the Capitol. (Questions for readers: When was the tallest tree used and how tall was it?) It is, however, far from being the tallest live Christmas tree in the U.S. this holiday season. According to one report, that honor goes to the tree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which comes in at 162 feet.
I also found a photo of a Christmas tree at the Capitol from 1913 in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. As you can see, it’s somewhat less impressive than the one in place today, 100 years later!