Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 2:41PM
The history of displaying public Christmas trees in New York City began in Madison Square Park in 1912. The festive spirit caught on like wildfire, and by the 1920s just about every park and public space in the city decked out a tree with lights and ornaments around the holidays. Prospect Park's first Christmas tree, a 40-foot spruce, was lit in 1920 with 600 bulbs, and by 1926 the tree chosen was ten feet higher and boasted 1200 lights.
The tree was moved out of the park and into the above position in Grand Army Plaza in 1934 (about where the JFK memorial is now), thanks to mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and in recent years it's gone up directly under the arch.
In 2006 and 2007, the arch's tree was completely artificial, but stunning nonetheless with 600,000 LED lights that glowed in a patchwork quilt of colors. Due to improper storage the tradition never took off, and this year's tree is of the more standard variety.