Best Bird Houses in Columbia Heights (1921)

Wilson Normal bird houses

In revisiting the photo collections at the Library of Congress, I found the gem above. The photograph was taken on the afternoon of January 20, 1921, and shows a member from the American Forestry Association with children who were awarded blue ribbons for building  bird houses. The photo captures the event located on the western side of the Wilson Normal School. Today, the school is known as the Carlos Rosario public charter school and the location where the children are standing is part of the parking lot.

The construction of bird houses by the students was part of the week-long tree work exhibition at the Wilson Normal School which opened on Monday, January 17th, and ended on Friday, January 21st. While the exhibition had a large educational focus, the general public were encouraged to participate. In additional to the birdhouses and other pupil activities, the event included exhibits of trees, their diseases, insect destroyers, furniture of all kinds and essays on tree values.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the American Forestry Association was engaged in a nationwide referendum to determine what tree best represented America. Selecting the right tree was difficult. President Wilson weighed in during the survey stating that he was “quite unable to choose amongst the infinite variety and richness of American forests.”

The overwhelming result of the referendum among Washington school children was that the national tree should be the oak. D.C. children cast 7,004 votes for the oak – nearly twice as many as cast for the nearest competitor, the elm.

The entire vote breakdown in D.C. from school children in the 1921 American Forestry Association referendum follows:

  • Oak, 7,004;
  • Elm, 3,765;
  • Pine, 1,355;
  • Sugar maple, 1,392;
  • Apple, 1,145;
  • Hickory, 1,060;
  • Dogwood, 619;
  • Tulip, 328;
  • Walnut, 273;
  • Sycamore, 108; and,
  • Various others, 36.

Currently, the national tree of the United States is the Oak, which was chosen in 2004.

National Tree ballot

Explore posts in the same categories: Children, Historic Landmarks, History, Schools, Streets and Trees

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