O Christmas Tree!

Posted December 4, 2019 at 5:48 am by

Here’s this month’s his­to­ry col­umn from the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um

This image was labeled “Hotel de Haro Christ­mas 1924” when it came to the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um. We know lit­tle else about it, save for what we can see here. It’s hard to miss that big tree, which we know was not native to the some­what recent­ly land­scaped area in front of the hotel. It appears to be a coast Dou­glas fir (Pseudot­suga men­ziesii var. men­ziesii), but his­to­ri­ans are not arborists so do let us know if we are mis­tak­en as to its iden­ti­ty. A name for it in some Coast Sal­ish com­mu­ni­ties is lá:yelhp.

What we do know is that this tree appears to be taller than the Hotel de Haro, with its three sto­ries and an attic. The tree was no doubt cut down on Roche Har­bor land, which totaled sev­er­al hun­dreds of acres at the time. Note the vin­tage auto­mo­bile (cir­ca 1915–1920?) parked behind the util­i­ty pole near the right edge of the pho­to. There appears to be a light dust­ing of snow on the ground.

The front page of the Fri­day Har­bor Jour­nal dat­ed Decem­ber 18, 1924 told the sto­ry of “Islands in Grip of Howl­ing North­east­er.” Pipes were frozen, there were chim­ney fires, and the mail boat was can­celed for the dura­tion of the storm. That Christ­mas tree in the Roche Har­bor gar­den appears to have been teth­ered, but did it top­ple in the storm? 

Gaz­ing at this pho­to­graph through eyes focused on times past, one can imag­ine a large group of Roche Har­bor Lime Works employ­ees and fam­i­lies gath­ered in the gar­den to sing a sim­ple song:

“O Christ­mas Tree, O Christ­mas Tree,
Your branch­es green delight us!
They are green when sum­mer days are bright,
They are green when win­ter snow is white.
O Christ­mas Tree, O Christ­mas Tree,
Your branch­es green delight us!”

We wish you all a hol­i­day sea­son filled with joy and the shar­ing of island mem­o­ries, new and old.

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Categories: History

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