Big George Deemed ‘Unsustainable’

Eastern Market Plaza Tree to Be Replaced During Park Construction

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Pictured at the 2018 tree lighting, Big George was first illuminated for the holidays in 2007, just before Mr. Didden passed away. It has been at the center of the celebration ever since.

Despite the best efforts of arborists, Big George cannot be saved.

The 45-foot blue Atlas cedar is annually decorated for the holidays, but this December is likely to be its last on the northeast quadrant of Eastern Market Metro Plaza (EMMP) before the tree is removed when construction begins on renovations to EMMP Park, slated to begin in February 2020.

The tree will be replaced with a similar species of evergreen, said DGS EMMP Project Manager Cassidy Mullen, but the loss is a difficult one.

The tree was selected by the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID) to be planted in honor of well-known community supporter, president of National Capital Bank and founding BID President George Didden III. It made a cross-country trip from Oregon, arriving in September 2007. It was planted in time to be lit for a holiday celebration that December.

The tree has suffered from insufficient nutrients and a lack of hydration during a summer dry spell.

An initial assessment of Big George conducted by Bartlett Tree Experts of Gaithersburg, MD in early July found that Big George has a compromised vascular system which made it difficult for the tree to move water and nutrients up from the soil and to move sugars down to feed the roots.

A treatment plan implemented throughout the past three months has been deemed unsuccessful. Capitol Hill BID President Patty Brosmer said that the extensive summer dry spell hampered the efforts of arborists to save the tree.

Another evergreen, known affectionately as ‘Little George,’ was planted by the BID in the Southwest quadrant (across the street from the Southeast Library) in spring 2007, also in memory of Didden.

Little George has flourished ever since, and will be decorated for the 2019 Community Holiday Tree Lighting event, which will move to the southwest parcel.

Learn more about the Capitol Hill Holiday Tree Lighting tradition by visiting capitolhillbid.org/events/holiday-tree-lighting.