DC Japanese Cherry Tree Intrigue in 1941
I rarely pass up a chance to walk amongst the blossoming Japanese cherry trees in Washington D.C., especially if the peak blossom time coincides with shirtsleeve weather. Such was the case on Saturday March 26th, when I took this photo along the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
In 1885, travel writer Eliza Scidmore returned from a trip to Japan and suggested Japanese cherry trees would brighten up the empty parkland along the Potomac River in Washington D.C. At the time, the reaction to this suggestion was less than enthusiastic with those in charge asking, why plant cherry trees that don’t produce cherries.
It took 25-years for this idea to germinate, resulting the first batch of cherry trees arriving from Japan in 1910. Unfortunately these trees were diseased. Extensive preparations were made to assure the healthy arrival of the next batch of trees. The 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. were successfully planted.
This year, peak bloom was announced for March 25, which was noted as 16 days earlier than the peak bloom during 2015. My close-up photo shows a Japanese cherry tree during the fullness of bloom.
In walking around the Tidal Basin, one often encounters tour groups with a guide. Every now and then, one overhears a guide with a unique narrative. One such narration dealt with Japanese cherry tree intrigue during 1941.
As background she talked about the controversy of cutting down so many cherry trees to build the Jefferson Memorial. She pointed out, the ill feelings extended well into 1941. I wanted to see what local newspapers had to say. The February 20, 1941, issue of The Gettysburg Times contained a photo of the Jefferson Memorial under construction, with the caption:
On the south bank of the tidal basin in Washington, D.C., the $3,000,000 memorial to Thomas Jefferson, Virginia-born third U.S. president, is taking shape, though scaffolding still hides the beauty of its marble columns. Noteworthy is the central circular room with the portico, which faces north. Portico will be main entrance; domed central room will be 80 feet in diameter. Site provoked argument because some Japanese cherry trees had to be removed.
During the 1941 Cherry Blossom Festival, there continued to be protests about the removal of the cherry trees. This 1941 photo, from the Library of Congress, shows a tour group boating in the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom time. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is seen under construction in the background.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, several cherry trees were cut down in suspected retaliation. Quickly the name of these trees was changed to “Oriental Cherry Trees” in hopes that what a few individuals initiated, would not turn into a tree destruction onslaught. The name change appeared to work, no more cherry trees were destroyed. World War II also put an end to the Jefferson Memorial tree removal controversy.
Related posts include:Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts