Syracuse’s first Christmas tree and an outdoor instrument

Last evening, while walking through Columbus Circle, I spotted this pair playing a tune on one of Syracuse’s new ‘Sound Stops’. Sound Stop is a permanent outdoor musical instrument that started as a partnership between Symphoria and the Connective Corridor. Another Sound Stop exists in Lemp Park at the corner of Fayette and Warren Streets, with a third location at Everson Plaza planned.

Not too far from where this location, back in 1914, once stood what Syracuse considers the first public municipal Christmas tree. The city had been adorned with countless trees in previous years, including a tree that was located in the same location the year before, that was featured in The American City magazine, but some acknowledge 1914 as the first official tree.

The research of Daniel Connors tells us that the tree was a 40-foot tall hemlock and came from LaFayette Road, donated by the State College of Forestry, now SUNY ESF. It was transported and installed by the city’s park commission on December 17th, as bystanders filled the circle to watch.

Syracuse Herald, 1914

The first public lighting of the tree took place on Christmas Eve, exactly 102 years ago. The Syracuse Herald reported that the night began at 7:00pm as a 1000 school children sang Christmas carols in the circle. Each child carried a spray of evergreen, signifying a demand for peace all over the world and in Syracuse. Nearby, a pageant appeared on the steps of the adjacent Court House. The lights on the tree were turned on and the “circle shone resplendent a gleam of beauty and an emissary of good will.”

When I asked the pair who was out enjoying the night, close to where the first official tree was lit, if I could take their picture, they responded saying, “You’re one of those people who try to find the fun in everything huh?” I responded by saying, “You’re the one playing an instrument in the park.”

If you visit the Syracuse Sound Stops, be use to share your experiences on social media using the hashtag #SyrSoundStops tagging @SymphoriaCNY.