By Katie Collins News Eagle Reporter
The Christmas tree that will be on the lawn of the United States Capital traveled 5,004 miles from the White River National Forest in Colorado, stopping in various locations throughout the country and lastly stopping at Grey Towers in Milford, Saturday night.
After stopping in Allentown, Saturday afternoon, the 73-foot-tall Christmas tree stopped at the home of Gifford Pinchot, the Father of Conservation. But, due to the size of the tree, the trucks used to transport the tree were unable to maneuver through the windy roads that lead up the driveway to the mansion. The Christmas tree is a 74-year-old, Engelmann Spruce, with a 28 inch trunk diameter. After stopping at Grey Towers, the tree was taken to Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington, D.C.
Allison Stewart, the Director of Grey Towers called the tree's stop at the Towers "fitting" because for the first time, the tree stopped at Pinchot's home. Stewart said the tree stopping at the home was "exciting" because it helped to "kick off our 50th anniversary." In 1963, Pinchot's son, Gifford Bryce Pinchot donated Grey Towers and 102 acres to the USDA Forest Service. On the lawn of Grey Towers, in 1963, President John F. Kennedy dedicated the site to the American public.
The US Forest Service, Stewart said, has been providing the US Capital's Christmas tree since 1964.
Former United States Senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell drove the truck that carried the tree from Colorado. Stewart said Campbell volunteered for the job.
Stewart said the tree stopping at Grey Towers was an opportunity for the US Forest Service to "tell our conservation message to the public." The museum was opened to the public for free, which Stewart said provided people the chance to "hear the story about the birth of conservation in America."
Through Grey Tower's partnership with the Milford Garden Club, the mansion was decorated for Christmas, Stewart said in a manner that was "comparable to how it was during the Victorian era" when the Pinchot family moved into the house. Stewart said she is always "thrilled" when the public visits Grey Towers because it is an opportunity to "show-off the beautiful gem that Milford has."
Since President Kennedy visited Grey Towers in September 1963, Stewart said a year-long celebration, which started this past September will continue on with various events happening throughout the year to celebrate the anniversary.
Numerous national figures have been invited to Grey Towers to help celebrate the anniversary, including President Barrack Obama, Stewart said. The likelihood that he would actually attend however, Stewart would not comment. She also would not tell who else has been invited, except for saying "family members of critical people from the 1960's and people involved in the conservation movement." With President Kennedy's linkage to Grey Towers, Stewart said the US Forest Service would be "thrilled to have representation from the Kennedy family." Also, because Pinchot was good friends with Teddy Roosevelt, Stewart said "overtures" have been made to the Roosevelt family. The activities for the celebration are all about being outdoors, Stewart said and include an 8k run, a documentary about Pinchot and Grey Towers in its "significance in the forming of the conservation movement of America" Stewart said.
Although the public was unable to see the Christmas tree, Mr. and Mrs. Claus along with Smoky the Bear were able to make it up the windy driveway. Santa told children to hope for snow because with Christmas being about a month away, "Rudolph doesn't like to land on the dry old ground, he likes the snow."
For more information on Grey Towers National Historic Site, visit online at www.greytowers.org or call (570)296-9630.
Information about the National Christmas Tree may be found at www.capitolchristmastree2012.com.