Friday, December 19, 2014

Things you didn't know about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Published on 12/15/2014
You’ve probably endured a televised tree lighting ceremony or two over the years, and you may have even braved the tourist-ridden plaza to see the massive evergreen for yourself. But there’s a lot more to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree than meets a jaded New Yorker’s eye. And by "a lot more" we mean "these 18 things"...  (I’m not posting all 18 things, you’ll have to go to for all of them but here are the ‘green’ highlights!)
1. In 1931, the first tree was put up unofficially as something of a Depression-era fairy tale
A group of workers responsible for the early construction phases of Rockefeller Center raised the tree to celebrate the fact that, unlike most of America, they actually had a way to pay the bills. They decorated the 20ft balsam fir with cranberries, paper garlands, and a few tin cans. A clerk distributed their paychecks from the foot of the tree later that night.
6. The tree is solar powered
LED lights were introduced in 2007 and are powered by 300 solar panels installed on the roof of One Rockefeller Center. The tree now saves enough energy to power a 2,000sqft single-family home for a month. That’s 2,213 kwH per day (but you knew that).
7. The tree’s lights reach farther than you can probably run
There are 45,000 LED lights on 5mi of wire, roughly the distance from 110th St to 14th St along Broadway. Or one mile less than the perimeter of Central Park.
8. The tree remains lit for 24 hours straight on Christmas Day
5:30am to 11:30pm on all other days with the lights going out at 9pm on New Year’s Eve.
9. The largest tree to date was 100ft tall
Although the tree usually stands no less than 65ft tall -- or seven stories -- because it needs to be dense enough to hold all the ornaments, but narrow enough to fit under bridges as it’s transported, horizontally, into Manhattan, the record-setter came from Killingworth, Connecticut and was on display in 1999. Any bigger and it probably won't make it here, the width of New York City streets limit tree height to 110ft.
12. Nearly 450mi is the farthest a tree has traveled to get to Rockefeller Center
Most of the trees come from New England and suburbs of the tri-state area, but this 64ft spruce was donated by our neighbor to the North in honor of the Centennial of its Confederation (1967). It hailed from Ottawa, to be exact, and was the first tree to come from outside the US.
14. This year’s tree is 90 years old, weighs thirteen tons, and traveled 155mi to Manhattan
Rock Center’s head gardener Erik Pauze had been coveting the choice evergreen for years after discovering it during a drive along I-80. It wasn’t until this year that the owners, a pair of self-proclaimed “Christmas elves”, were willing to part with it.
15. The tree gets turned into lots of useful stuff
The evergreen has been even greener since 1971 when it was turned into 30 three-bushel bags of mulch for nature trails in upper Manhattan. It has since been used to build homes for Habitat for Humanity in New York, Louisiana, India, and Brazil, and to rebuild houses in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The stump, however, gets its own afterlife; it's donated to the US Equestrian Team to be used as obstacle jumps.
16. The tree doesn’t need to be watered
Cold outdoor temperatures keep it fresh so it doesn’t dry out like the indoor tree that may currently be wreaking havoc on your carpet.
Nina Stoller-Lindsey is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of Time Out New York, NY Magazine, The Atlantic, and more. Follow her on Twitter @NinaStollerLind.