WASHINGTON D.C.’S CHERRY TREES

Washington‘s beloved cherries trees were all Eliza Scidmore’s idea. The writer, photographer, & geographer from Iowa visited Japan in 1885 & was besotted by the beauty of those emphemeral blossoms. When she demanded that the U.S. Office of Public Buildings & Grounds plant cherry trees in D.C., she was roundly ignored. She proposed her idea to every new superintendent of the department for 24 years and, in 1906, botanist David Fairchild (of the prominent Connecticut clan) imported 1,000 cherry trees for his Maryland estate. The trees thrived, & Fairchild joined the cause. When Eliza decided to raise money for the trees herself, she wrote to First Lady Helen Taft. Mrs. Taft adored Japan & took matters into her own enthusiastic hands. Takamini, a Japanese chemist who happened to be in Washington, caught wind of the cherry tree crusade. He and the Japanese consul agreed that the trees should be given in the name of Tokyo, & asked Mrs. Taft if she’d accept another 2,000 cherry trees. To the tremendous delight of Scidmore, Fairchild, & all who afterward strolled the Potomac of an April morn, she graciously accepted. The rest, as they say, is history.