Today in History: Syracuse’s First Christmas Tree

For many, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start to the holiday season. Crowds gather in Clinton Square to watch the tree lighting, drink hot cocoa, and spend time with family and friends. But, Syracuse’s tree wasn’t always in Clinton Square. On the morning of December 19th 1913, Syracuse’s first municipal Christmas tree was raised in St. Mary’s Circle, known today as Columbus Circle. The forty foot tall hemlock, donated by the State College of Forestry (SUNY ESF), came from their tree plantation at Rockwell Springs, now the SUNY ESF Experimental Station on Lafayette Road.

The municipal ceremonies at the tree took place annually on Christmas Eve, a tradition that lasted until December 6th, 1932, when a 50ft tree was placed in the circle for the last time. The following year, Clinton Square became the official site for Syracuse’s Christmas tree. The lighting took place on December 17th, 1933 with Mayor Rolland B. Marvin leading the ceremony. Since then, the ceremony has called Clinton Square home.