A Tree Grows in Jersey

When Rockefeller Center needs a big one, it swings its ax here.

The 2012 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree from Flanders. Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

It’s known to all as the Tree. The first one, a wimpy 20-foot pine placed in 1931, was decorated with tin cans by Rockefeller Center construction workers to fight the Depression-era blues. Two years later, the first official Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony started an annual tradition.

The skating rink in the sunken plaza below the tree was introduced in 1936 to lure tourists to the sub-level shopping area. That year, a pair of 70-foot Norway spruces from Morristown were erected in the plaza. Since then, 22 more Jersey-grown trees have towered over the plaza, including another set of twins from Allamuchy in 1937.

Trees are picked from homeowner submissions and scouting trips by center arborists—typically from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. One tree commuted all the way from Ottawa, Canada, in 1966.

The Tree is always a Norway spruce, an evergreen that grows tall and quickly. But not too tall: New York City’s narrow side streets limit the maximum height to about 110 feet. One Jersey giant, an 80-foot, 10-ton spruce from Flanders, was selected just before Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012 and was wrapped and secured with 10,000 feet of rope and aircraft cable to protect it from the storm. That’s one tough Jersey tree!

Think your Norway spruce deserves a place in Rockefeller Center history? It should be roughly 75 feet tall and 45 feet in diameter with a symmetrical shape. To be considered for 2015, submit a photo to the official Rockefeller Center Tree website.

Below, a list of all the trees from New Jersey that stood proud at Rockefeller Center.

1936: Morristown; Twin Norway spruces, 70 ft

1937: Allamuchy; Two Norway spruces, 70 ft

1939: Town Unknown, New Jersey; Norway spruce; 75 ft

1952: Allamuchy; Norway spruce, 85 ft

1953: Morristown; Norway spruce, 75 ft

1954: Town Unknown, Warren County; Norway spruce, 65 ft

1955: Belvidere; Norway spruce, 65 ft

1972: New Brunswick; Norway spruce, 65 ft

1973: Tenafly; Norway spruce, 65 ft

1976: Montclair; Norway spruce, 65 ft

1978: Mahwah; Norway spruce, 75 ft

1982: Mahwah; Norway spruce, 70 ft

1984: Far Hills; Norway spruce, 75 ft

1988: Raritan Township; Norway spruce, 75 ft

1995: Mendham; Norway spruce, 75 ft

2001: Wayne; Norway spruce, 81 ft

2002: Bloomsbury; Norway spruce, 76 ft

2005: Wayne; Norway spruce, 74 ft

2008: Trenton/Hamilton; Norway spruce, 72 ft

2012: Flanders; Norway spruce, 80 ft

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