Time passes, but the cherry blossoms always come back. Seeing the cherry blossoms is a time-honored D.C. tradition that dates back to 1912, when Tokyo gifted 3,020 cherry trees to the U.S. in an act of friendship. While many of the original trees have been replaced, the Tidal Basin’s beauty has persisted for more than a century. Each spring, more than 1.5 million visitors descend upon Washington, D.C. each year to admire the 3,000-plus trees.
Here’s a great “then and now” comparison shot of the Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. from the 1930s and 2019.
Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin (THEN): From Lewis Reed’s collection of photographs. Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin, circa 1930s with my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner.
Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin (NOW): The “now” photo is a google image of approximately the same location… some 80 years later. According to the National Park Service, DC’s 2020 cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom sometime between March 21 and 22. The best viewing of the cherry blossom trees typically lasts four to seven days after peak bloom begins, but the blossoms can last for up to two weeks under ideal conditions.
The 2020 Festival, March 20 – April 14, includes four weeks of events featuring diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is cancelling and postponing some Festival events occurring through March 31. You can read the announcement with details here.
Fun facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms
- The first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft. Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
- The first two trees were planted on the north bank of Tidal Basin in March 1912, and they still stand today. You can see them at the end of 17th Street Southwest, marked by a large plaque.
- It’s against the law to pick the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. While there aren’t any subtle wire fences or stern security guards like in a museum, any attempts to create your own corsage may very well land you a fine.
- The majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety. But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.
- The average lifespan of a cherry blossom tree is only 20 to 30 years, but nearly 100 of the original trees from 1912 still thrive at the Tidal Basin due to the maintenance of the National Park Service.
- No, they’re not all from 1912, reinforcements are sometimes necessary. New trees have been regularly planted, including in 1965, the late 1980s, 1999 and from 2002 to 2006, according to the NPS.
Looking at old photographs is like peering through an open window back into history. Not only do they give you a sense of wonder from traveling back in time, but also a staggering feeling of awe from seeing just how much things have changed. For this post, I have used one of Lewis Reed’s original photographs for “then” and a Google stock image for “now”.
Point of Rocks Station (THEN): Point of Rocks is the location of an important railroad junction and the site of one of the most picturesque and best known of the historic stations of the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. At this junction, the ex-B&O Old Main Line from Baltimore, one of the oldest lines in the country, and the ex-B&O Metropolitan Branch from Washington, D.C., opened in 1873, come together and continue west as one line to Cumberland, Pittsburgh, and Ohio. A little known fact is that the station was struck by lightning in the late afternoon of June 27, 1931 and gutted. We can be thankful that the B&O ordered its full restoration.
Point of Rocks Station (NOW):
With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to feature a photograph that Lewis Reed took of the Saylorsburg Lake House Hotel, now the site of Hotel of Horror. The aging Lake House Hotel in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, once a vibrant Poconos retreat, was a popular hotel for the region’s tourists who were looking for fun on nearby Saylors Lake. During the hotel’s heyday, its staff was booking rooms a year in advance. Today, the former hotel’s fame is generated from its annual Halloween haunted-house attraction.
Lake House Hotel (THEN): The legend of the Lake House Hotel spans more than two-hundred years. According to local folklore, during World War II, many of the employees at the Lake House were called to assist in the Pennsylvania National Guard, leaving the local asylum with one lone security guard to watch over the entire building. The inmates escaped, made their way to the hotel and took it over. The insane patients performed experiments on the guests. What was once a renowned resort for the rich and famous, became a torture chamber.
Hotel of Horror (NOW): This 2019 season will celebrate the 27th year that the Hotel of Horror has been fascinating and horrifying legions of fans from the far reaches of the United States and even internationally. To all the readers of this blog: Have a spooky, enjoyable and very safe Halloween!
This post is a continuation of a series of “Then & Now” images that will show photographs of buildings, street scenes, and other historical locales from Lewis Reed’s Photo Collection alongside photographs of how they appear today. Taken approximately 109 years apart, these photos show the Clopper Grist Mill then and now.
Clopper Mill (THEN): Francis Cassatt Clopper bought this mill and 541 acres in 1810, but the earliest mention of a mill on this site dates back to 1777. Clopper’s mill was a square, three-story grist mill, with basement and first floor levels made of local field stone and a third story of brick. The mill was destroyed by a fire in 1947.
On April 15, 1865 Clopper Mill became part of national history when would-be assassin of the Vice President of the United States, George Atzerodt, spent the night there while fleeing from Washington D.C. after the assassination of President Lincoln. George was part of the gang assembled by John Wilkes Booth to eliminate the heads of the U.S. government. He was supposed to kill Vice President Johnson at the Willard Hotel at the same time as Booth assassinated the President. But Atzerodt ran out of courage and instead made his way to Germantown.
Clopper Mill (NOW): The ruins of this large brick and stone mill stand on the west bank of Great Seneca Creek, just south of Clopper Road near the intersection of Warring Station Road. The property was acquired by the State in 1955 as part of Seneca Creek State Park.
In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now”. The Pennsylvania State Memorial is a monument in Gettysburg National Military Park that commemorates the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought in the July 1 to 3, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. These photos show the same view taken about 109 years apart.
State of Pennsylvania Monument (THEN): This rare photograph was taken by Lewis Reed of the State of Pennsylvania Monument while under construction. Completed in 1914, it is the largest of the state monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Taken approximately 109 years apart, these photos show the State of Pennsylvania Monument then and now.
State of Pennsylvania Monument (NOW): The State of Pennsylvania Monument (at 110 feet tall) incorporates individual sculptures commemorating the six Keystone State generals who fought at Gettysburg — plus President Abraham Lincoln and Governor Andrew Curtain — and 90 bronze plaques emblazoned with the names of each of the 34,530 Pennsylvanians who fought in the battle. It cost $240,000 to build in the early 1900s, or almost $6 million in 2018.