First Lady Grace Coolidge plants a tree at the Chevy Chase Playground, February 28, 1929.
I’ve started doing research on District playgrounds so there’s a good chance that I’ll have a few posts about them in the near future. But for now, I’ll start with a historical side note that I stumbled upon related to playgrounds, trees, and presidential wives. Apparently, from 1928 to 1934, the Women’s City Club was successful in inviting siting and former First Ladies to attend their prominent tree planting ceremony.
The first such tree planting occurred on May 1, 1928, at the Park View playground as part of the he District playground program that included 42 municipal playgrounds. At the Park View Playground, Mrs. William Howard Taft planted a red maple. According to the day’s program, during the exercises the school children danced around the tree singing the planting song.
On February 28 of the following year, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge planted a tree at the Chevy Chase playgrounds as one of her last acts as First Lady. More than 1,000 persons witnessed the ceremony. Though this was the second such event at a District playground, it was described as an established custom by former First Ladies in their final days in the Capital before the inauguration of a new administration.
Mrs. Woodrow Wilson was honored in 1930 with a tree planting at the Virginia Avenue Playground and Mrs. Herbert Hoover planted a willow oak on October 22, 1931, at the Mitchell Park Playground.
After a two year break, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt planted the last such tree that I’ve been able to track down on October 28, 1934. This tree was planted at the McMillan Playground (1st and Bryant).
It’s possible that the tradition was interrupted by the Great Depression, or World War II, or that organizers had simply run out of presidential wives to honor. Whatever the reason, I like the idea and would be happy to see it come back.